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Asian Games: Rejuvenated Squash queen Nicol David seeks special finale

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Malaysia’s Nicol David, a six-times Asian Games squash gold medallist, says taking a break from the sport has left her feeling fresh heading into her sixth and final Asiad.

FILE PHOTO: Gold medalist Nicol David of Malaysia holds her medal during an award ceremony for the women's singles squash match at the Yeorumul Squash Courts during the 17th Asian Games in Incheon September 23, 2014. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

David first won gold at the 1998 Games in Bangkok and 20 years later comes into the women’s event as clear favourite, despite not winning a major title since March, 2017.

David’s success is unrivalled in the women’s game, winning a record eight world championships and spending more time atop the world rankings than any other player, male or female.

Before training with team mate and 2014 Asian Games silver medallist Low Wee Wern, David was even signing autographs for her potential opponents in Jakarta, such is her gravitas in the game.

Heading into what will be her final Asian Games, the 34-year-old says the recent break has rejuvenated her love of the sport.

“I have had my time to really figure out what is going on and just really try and improve myself all the time. Sometimes you have to take a step back to find what really matters most,” David told Reuters on Tuesday.

“I really love this game and I just want to enjoy every moment that I have, especially with this Asian Games being probably my last Asian Games so it is going to be a nice special one.”

David believes her experience will be telling now she has re-ignited her fire to compete again.

“I really feel like that itch is there again and I think in the last couple of the tournaments I just lost that little but of edge,” she said.

“You train so hard and you work towards something but you just don’t have that feel on the court, so I took that time off and it really has paid off.”

The major disappointment of David’s career has been her inability to compete at the Olympics as the International Olympic Committee has consistently rejected squash as an Olympic sport.

David has been at the forefront of squash’s inclusion and, although she knows it would come too late for her, she is desperate to see the sport feature in Paris in 2024.

“We have really stepped up our game in all different aspects and we now really have a product that we can showcase,” said David.

“We are just going to keep on doing what we do and improve our sport. I am sure, eventually, one day we will get there hopefully.

“Just to see a squash player from any nation standing on the podium at the Olympic Games is my dream come true.”

David begins her Asian Games defence on Thursday.

Reporting by Jack Tarrant, editing by Ed Osmond