Leading from the front - David Mui ready to take charge of Asian body
Hong Kong's David Mui, head of the Asian governing body, will play a pivotal role as the sport bids to join the Olympic programme in 2020
David Mui Ying-yuen will face one of the toughest challenges of his life when he is confirmed president of the Asian Squash Federation next month. The Hong Kong businessman, who is standing uncontested for the post, will be the first person from the city to head the regional body at a time when the sport is bidding to join the Olympic family.
In September, the International Olympic Committee will decide not only the host city for the 2020 Games (Tokyo, Istanbul or Madrid), but also one new medal sport to join the programme. Squash is among eight sports vying to be part of the Olympic Games. "It will be a dream come true for me and everyone in the squash community to see the sport in the Olympic Games," Mui says. "We believe the time has come for us to be part of the Olympic family."
This is the third time squash is bidding for Olympic inclusion and Mui, with fingers crossed, says: "I'm not superstitious, but many believe in being third time lucky. However, luck is only part of the equation. The fact is all of us - the world governing body as well as all the regional bodies - have worked very hard to join the Olympics and I believe we have put forward a compelling case for inclusion."
Mui, who has been chairman of Hong Kong Squash since 2000, adds that the sport has made huge strides in recent years with the introduction of new technology to make the game more television-friendly. Showcourts have been put up at exotic locations like the pyramids in Egypt and the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront in Hong Kong to attract spectators and sponsors.
And there are also the hard facts that support squash as an Olympic sport. "Squash is a global sport played by 20 million men and women on more than 50,000 courts in 185 countries. A true world sport," Mui says. "On the professional side, we have successful tours for both men and women - more than 500 players from 74 nations competing on the men's tour and more than 350 on the women's tour. We are confident we can showcase the beauty of the game on the Olympic stage."
Hong Kong has already played an important role in the bidding campaign as the city's flagship event, the Hong Kong Open, was inspected by two IOC officials last month. "An evaluation report has been sent to the IOC headquarters and so far the response has been very positive," Mui says. "The world's top professionals regard the Hong Kong Open as one of the most important tournaments on the tour. For three decades our tournament has gone from strength to strength.
"One of my tasks as president of the Asian federation will be to encourage cities to learn from Hong Kong's experience and host their own top-class tournaments. I also want to see more countries joining our federation.
"While squash has a long history in the West, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in this area," he says. "At the moment, we have 27 members out of a possible 45. In central Asia, we have not seen any of the five former Soviet Union states join our federation, while in Southeast Asia we are hoping Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and East Timor will apply for membership."
Mui is eager to attract new members from the region to ensure that squash remains part of the Asian Games in 2019, as the programme will be reviewed after the 2014 Games in Incheon, South Korea. He will be assisted in that task by Duncan Chiu Tat-kun, a committee member of Hong Kong Squash, who will be appointed secretary general of the Asian body next month. The federation's headquarters will also be in Hong Kong during Mui's four-year stint as president.
"It's important that we keep our status as a medal sport at the Asian Games. This is the highest level of competition at regional level," Mui says. "Squash was first introduced to the Asian Games in Bangkok in 1998 and has since grown rapidly. Even though we are a young sport in terms of the Asian Games, players from the continent are among the world's best. They deserve to be part of the Asian Games."
Malaysian Nicol David is the most successful women's player in the world. The 29-year-old has occupied the world number one spot for more than six years and recently won the World Open for a record seventh time.
Asia's men have not enjoyed that level of success in recent years, but in the 1980s and 1990s, players from Pakistan were untouchable. Jahangir Khan was a six-time world champion, while Jansher Khan won the World Open a record eight times and the British Open six times.
"Asians are particularly suited to squash as agility and tactics are key to success," Mui says. "As we get more countries to join our federation, the pool of talent will increase. I believe Asia can lead the world in squash."