Scotland’s world squash champion Peter Nicol has switched his allegiance to England to take advantage of the Lottery-funded World Class Performance Programme run by the sport’s English governing body, the Squash Rackets Association (SRA).

The 27-year-old world No1, who won the sport’s first men’s gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia in 1998 and was honoured with an MBE in June 1999, was born in Inverurie, near Aberdeen – but has been based in London, training at the Connaught Club in Chingford, for more than ten years.

‘It is becoming increasingly difficult to compete on the world stage against players that are being supported both by comprehensive performance backup programmes as well as through government awards and grants,’ said Nicol.

‘By moving to England, and being a nominated player within the SRA’s World Class Performance Programme, I hope to maintain the position I have worked so hard to secure over a number of years.’

England’s World Class Performance Programme was launched in October 1997 and came into full operation in January 2000. The Programme, supported by Sport England through the Lottery Sports Fund, put in place a performance environment designed to provide players with a full range of facilities – such as sports science, sports psychology, sports medicine, funding for tournament commitments, coaching, video analysis, etc. – required to move to the top positions of the world game.

Matt Hammond, the SRA’s Performance Director, said: ‘Peter has had to watch a number of his key opponents receive support from their own government agencies which has enabled them to move closer to him. He has acknowledged that our World Class Programme represents the best all-round support programme in the world and wants to take advantage of that opportunity.

‘He is not only a great athlete but also a fine ambassador for the sport, and he will provide the ultimate role model for the younger up-and-coming players in our system.’

Since Nicol has lived and trained in England during his formative years under the guidance initially of current England national coach David Pearson and now Neil Harvey – both of whom were honoured with the National Coaching Foundation’s prestigious Mussabini Medal earlier this season – there will not be any immediate difference to his training, preparation and competition schedule.

The significant changes, however, will be made in the areas of sports science and sports medicine, and in particular the introduction of match analysis information for all-round technical and tactical improvements.

Nicol’s move has been ratified by the World Squash Federation, though he will not be able to represent England until 2002, three years after he last played for Scotland. He added: ‘I have had an opportunity to look at the state-of-the-art application of information technology to squash and want to be part of the game’s evolution – as well as being the highest ranked player in the world!’

Since the launch of the SRA’s World Class Performance Programme, England have won a number of world squash titles – including the men’s world team crown in 1997; the women’s world team trophy in 2000; the men’s world junior team titles in 1998 and 2000, and the World Cup in 1999.

Also in 1999, Norfolk’s Cassie Campion became the women’s World Open champion for the first time. In the sport’s Commonwealth Games debut in Malaysia in 1998, England claimed seven medals (two gold, one silver and four bronze) – more than ony other country. Furthermore, England recorded their 25th men’s title in last year’s European Championships, the women’s team extending their unbeaten reign since 1978.

Issued on behalf of the Squash Rackets Association (SRA)
by Howard Harding
Tel: 01737-243333
Fax: 01737-222787
SRA 491 21 March 2001