THERE are two names that someone even remotely interested in squash can’t help but hear: Jansher Khan and Ramy Ashour. While the duo of Jahangir and Jansher Khan make for one amazingly exhilarating story of achieving perfection in sports, Ramy Ashour’s tryst with squash is about that and more.
Not quite the perfect story of an undiscovered hidden sports star bursting into the squash scene and rising steadily to be regarded as the best squash player of all time, Ramy Ashour’s life comes close to that description except for one big difference. Ashour won the World Junior Squash Championship at the unbelievable age of 16 and moved on to play through the ranks, losing only in finals and to legends. Sounds simple?
Not quite. At possibly one of the most crucial moments of his career, when he was poised to dominate the sport, he was made to withdraw from the sport due to a severe hamstring injury. The seriousness of the injury kept him off from the circuit for nearly a year. From 2011-12, Ashour’s story was the exact opposite from where it had started. Injured, probably off the game for a long time, nobody expected him to play as he did before, let alone make a comeback that put his previous games to shame.
But that’s exactly what he did. Starting in 2012, after a year of working on his weak spots, Ashour returned to the scene. But when people expected to see something similar to the way he’d been playing before, they were shocked to discover that it wasn’t just physical fitness that was different about Ashour. His whole game had changed. His approach to the game had changed. He was playing squash like few had ever played before.
In fact, not just content with perfecting the standard moves, Ashour raised the bar by setting out to invent and re-imagine how the game could be played. His moves and manoeuvres had squash fans talking endlessly. A number of his rallies became the yardstick for judging the sport. Currently unbeaten for 45 matches, Ashour became the star people expected him to be and more.
One of the most interesting changes sports fans noticed about Ashour after his return was that his behaviour on the court had changed. He was far calmer and controlled than before. He seemed to be able to anticipate and be one step ahead of his opponents.
Ashour’s desire to be known as a fighter as opposed to a skilled player speaks a lot about his attitude towards the sport. Those words can only come from an athlete who has realized that no game is just about natural talent. Only when you recognize your weaknesses and fight them, do you truly value the game.
So why is Ramy Ashour’s story yours too? It’s your story because it tells us that everyone, no matter how skilled or how gifted can be pulled down by weaknesses.
And that is the decisive moment that can either change your entire perspective towards the sport, making you realize how easily it could all be lost and how tough you have to be to keep fighting against the odds, making you truly understand how much you want to win or it could lead you to quit.
There’s no set way of developing the kind of mental toughness and focused outlook that Ramy Ashour found during his time off the court. But there is hope to take from Ashour’s brilliant transformation as a player and that’s the reason you should know his story.
It’s one of resilience, overcoming adversity and learning the intensity of your love for a sport. That’s every athlete’s journey, in a nutshell. And it’s amazingly inspiring.