Datuk Nicol David leads the Malaysian delegation parade during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Asian Games at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium
Datuk Nicol David leads the Malaysian delegation parade during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Asian Games at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium. – Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP

Record-breaking champion Nicol David has hailed the British Open’s contribution to women’s equality, something which should aid squash’s chances of earning an Olympic debut at Tokyo in 2020.

David hopes to win the world’s oldest title for a sixth time this week, when women are scheduled on the all-glass show court from the start for the first time at this venue, the Airco arena, sitting within the environs of Hull City football club.

There are also guarantees that women’s prize money levels will reach parity with the men’s by 2017 as part of the three-year sponsorship extension from Hull City FC’s owner, Essam Allam.

Against that critics point out that it is only four women’s first round matches which have been staged on the glass show court, the remainder being located a mile away on traditional plaster courts.

It was this banishment which last year brought an intervention from David. She highlighted the incongruity of England possessing a rare world champion in Laura Massaro and sending her far from the main arena in the country’s pre-eminent event.

Her words were heeded and now though some may consider the improvements modest, David is positive about them. “It’s good. They have balanced it up with the men and the women,” David said, referring to the four men’s matches which have been placed on the distant courts.

“Just to have women on the glass at the start of the tournament, to have a showcase alongside the men is great for the prestige,” she said. “I am really pleased with that.”

David, who has been world number one for an incredible 109 successive months, has been a prominent ambassador in squash’s ongoing bid to achieve Olympic status. Equal prize money is a vital ingredient in a still-possible success.

“These are exciting time for women’s squash,” David said. “With Dr Allam supporting it (the British Open) for the next few years, and setting equal prize money by 2017, it sets a precedent.”

Few tournaments have equal prize money yet, but David believes that with the merger of the men’s and women’s governing bodies this year, and squash’s encouraging advance in the United States, progress towards equality may accelerate

“It’s looking very promising from the last few tournaments in America,” she said. “From the moment the US Open decided to create equal prize money two years ago it has made an impact on the way other tournaments go in America.

“To have two additional US tournaments going equal, the Tournament of Champions (in New York) and Chicago, it’s huge. Just within one year so much more has come through.  I think it will be a progression.

“What the US has done is make sure the other tournaments follow suit. And with the British Open, it’s great to see that happening so soon. Hopefully we will have more tournaments doing the same.

“And right now the men and the women are showing the International Olympic Committee that we’re working together as one unit and with a united approach.”

The four leading women who have been on the show court from the beginning of the British Open yesterday (Tuesday) were those involving David, the world number two Raneem El Weleily, the world number three Alison Waters, and the former World and British Open champion Laura Massaro. – Agence France-Presse

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