LEGENDS GEOFF HUNT & HASHIM & AZAM KHAN HONOURED AT WORLD AWARDS
The presentations took place in the appropriate setting of the Great Hall in the historic Manchester Town Hall before a packed gathering of VIPS, players and officials from the sport during the city’s hosting of the Hi-Tec World Squash Championships – the first joint staging of the Men’s and Women’s World Opens in the UK.
It was the fourth staging of the World Squash Awards by Eventis Sports Marketing, a company run by former players Peter Nicol, MBE; Tim Garner and Angus Kirkland.
Hashim Khan, born in Pakistan in 1916, won the British Open seven times between 1951 and 1958. The distinguished 92-year-old – who only recently gave up playing the sport - journeyed from his home in Denver, USA, to receive his award.
His younger brother Azam Khan, based in the UK, continued the family’s association with the sport’s most coveted title - firstly finishing as runner-up to Hashim in three British Open finals before going on to claim the title four times, from 1959 to 1962!
Geoff Hunt took up the gauntlet thrown down by British hero Jonah Barrington - winning his first British Open crown in 1969 before picking up a total of eight titles by 1981.
The presentations were made by Lifetime Achievement Award holder Jahangir Khan, the six times World Open champion and record ten-time British Open champion who ended his six-year reign as President of the World Squash Federation in Manchester.
Jahangir received a Special Award from the WSF. Emeritus President Susie Simcock delivered a citation in which she reminded the star-studded audience that 'JK' first came to prominence in 1979 when he won the World Amateur title, aged 15 - before going on to achieve a remarkable 774-match unbeaten run, over five years and eight months. Perhaps his most notable accolade, however, was the award of 'Sportsman of the Millennium' in Pakistan.
"Jahangir quite simply represents everything that's good about Squash - and everything that's good about sport," concluded Ms Simcock.
Nicol David, the world number one from Malaysia who went on to win the women's World Open title for a third time in Manchester, won the WISPA Player of the Year Award for the fourth year in a row. David received the award from fellow countryman HRH Prince Tunku Imran, Patron of the WSF and a prime mover in Squash making its debut in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
"Thanks to everybody," said Nicol after receiving the award as voted by the WISPA membership. "Having Squash in the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia really sparked things off for me - and I'm grateful for the great support I've had all the way."
England's James Willstrop beat Egyptians Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour to win the PSA Player of the Year Award. "It means a great deal to be recognised by such a distinguished group of people, and at such an event," said the world No3 from Yorkshire after receiving his prize from the newly-elected PSA Chairman Ziad Al-Turki. "And it's quite nice to get one over on Ramy and Shabs!"
Hong Kong's Annie Au won the WISPA Young Player of the Year Award. "I'm very happy to get this award," said the 19-year-old who battled through to the last 16 of the World Open. "I thank Hong Kong Squash for giving me so much support."
Omar Mosaad, a 20-year-old from Cairo, picked up the PSA Young Player of the Year Award. Egyptian national coach Amir Wagih, who collected the award on behalf of Mosaad, was asked the secret of Egypt's success in Squash: "Not for export!" was the former international's brief response!
England international Laura Lengthorn-Massaro won the WISPA Most Improved Player of the Year Award. "It means a lot to me," said the 24-year-old from Lancashire.
There was a surprise Services to Squash Award which was presented to Jim Quigley, Manchester City Council's Head of Major Sports Events and Partnerships. The driving force behind the staging of numerous major Squash events in the city over the past 12 years - including the 2008 World Championships, the National Championships, the British Open and the 2002 Commonwealth Games - Quigley admitted that 'Squash is my passion'.
"I am proud to have been given the opportunity by Manchester City Council to do this," Quigley. "The staging of the Commonwealth Games here led to a legacy programme which has inspired more than 6,000 youngsters to take up the sport - many of whom have played in these championships."
Awards host Peter Nicol was delighted with the success of the event: "Holding this year’s World Squash Awards in conjunction with the World Championships in Manchester was a break in the tradition of staging the event at the RAC in London. But we, Eventis, felt it was too good an opportunity to miss. The highlight of the squash calendar, the World Championships, seemed the perfect place to honour the players who have performed best over the past year.
"On behalf of Eventis, we would like to thank Geoff Hunt, Azam Khan and Hashim Khan for making the journey to Manchester to be at the 2008 World Squash Awards and for making the evening so memorable. Jahangir Khan's final evening as the WSF President was also observed and a tribute to all his hard work over the years was greeted with a standing ovation. This truly was a unique occasion for all squash fans as we had several generations of World Champions present and few future ones sitting at the tables watching on.
"I would like to personally thank Jim Quigley of Manchester City Council for putting on a magnificent event in the World Squash Championships and for his continued efforts to promote Squash. His 'Services to Squash' award was thoroughly deserved and I know he will continue to work to push the sport in the right direction in Manchester and be an example for all of the squash world to follow.
"Finally, thanks to Adrian Davies, our MC for the evening, who had everyone relaxed and enjoying themselves from the first moment he got up on stage," Nicol concluded.
Issued by Howard Harding on behalf of: WSF/PSA/WISPA