The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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ĎNothing is impossibleí
- A TELEGRAPH EXCLUSIVE - Sporting great Jahangir Khan, speechless for his first eight years, talks about what goes into the making of a champion

Six world titles, ten British Open crowns in succession (1982-91)... A phenomenal run of 774 matches without a loss... Jahangir Khan isnít just a squash legend, but one of the greatest icons in sport. Now 42, he recently spoke to The Telegraph for about an hour in hometown Karachi. For all his achievements, itís difficult coming across somebody more humble than this World Squash Federation president.


Following are excerpts

On what goes into the making of a champion

The urge within... Youíve first got to aspire to be the best... Training for even six hours a day wonít mean a thing if you arenít disciplined in the remaining 18... Thereís no scope for focusing on anything except becoming the No.1. Agar aap yeh nahin kar sakte, then donít dream of being the best. Sacrifices donít come easy, but a champion gets rewards.

On hailing from a family of champion squash players

I took to the sport as a duck takes to water! I started playing from around the age of eight... Two years later, I began going to what then was the Fleet Club and is now the Pakistan Navy Roshan Khan and Jahangir Khan Squash Complex... From two courts, it now has seven... I owe everything to my father (Roshan), who passed away recently...

On his father initially not having been keen on his taking to squash

Thatís because I had a hernia problem and the doctors advised I stay away from the squash courts... Also, early on, I had problems hearing and talking... In fact, I began speaking when I was eight... The doctors felt I wouldnít be able to cope up with a tough sport and nobody was more worried than my walidsaheb...

On who took him to the club for the first time

Elder brother Torsem during the summer vacations... Heíd seen me playing (with a small racket) in our garage and appreciated the interest I was showing... When my father learnt Iíd begun going there, he reminded everybody that I shouldnít play ' Ďkhali dekh ke aa jaya kareí he said... I did exactly that for a few days and, then, headed for the courts... I would be tipped off about my fatherís arrival, but one day that didnít happen... I was petrified... Didnít know what to do... I expected a firing, but father only asked whether I felt any pain during the rallies... I replied in the negative... However, I had a couple of operations, the last when I was 12 or so, and never had any problem at all after that.

On his first exposure outside Pakistan

In 1978, as a 14-year-old in the world junior meets in Sweden and England... I made the individual finals and, then, asked Torsem if I could stay with him in England. Being a pro, heíd shifted there... ĎYou can, if you win the next yearí was his reply. That fired me up... I again lost in the finals, but was part of the side which won the team title... That was good enough for Torsem... At the seniorsí level, my maiden outing was in the 1979 World Amateur Championship (Melbourne)... I made it thanks to a nice gesture from (Air Marshal) Nur Khan, who was then heading PIA... Believe it or not, I won.

On mentor Torsemís tragic on-court death

(Emotionally, after a pause)That was in the Australian Open (Adelaide), not too long after Iíd bagged the amateur crown... Actually, before leaving for the meet, Torsem told me he would retire and become my coach... Lekin woh to hamesha ke liye chod gaye... He just collapsed on the court...He was only 28... I was in such shock that I didnít play for four months... I returned to the courts after my father insisted I must achieve what Torsem, who was world No.7 at the time of his death, wanted me to become: The best.

On becoming the No.1

I returned to England, this time with my first cousin and coach Rehmat Khan... I slogged and slogged... Hours and hours of squash... Maine din raat ek kar di and, exactly two years after Torsemís death (November 28, 1979), I was facing Geoff Hunt in the World Open final in Canada... I beat Hunt, but the victory was Torsemís...

On life after that

I stayed focused... Wasnít tempted by anything and aspired to do even better... Wanted to be recognised as somebody who couldnít be beaten... All for Torsem... Throughout my career, I thought of my late brother... I did everything for him... His memories gave strength... Powered my game...

On his unbeaten run of 774 matches

(Laughs)It was from April 1981 till November 1986, when Ross Norman beat me in Toulouse... More than anything, my on-court and off-court discipline took me to such heights... Times without number, I disappointed friends by skipping social engagements or backing out of some other commitment... But, then, I did so because I was disciplined... Didnít want to be distracted...

On having been a superstar

Never thought of myself as one... I worked hard, but the blessings came from Allah... (After a pause) I was honest to myself and to squash.

On Jansher Khan

He was good and became the world champion in a tough era...

On Pakistan having produced so many champions

I would call it the family-effect. The sons wanted to follow the father and so on... Also, our (the Khansí) roots are in Peshawar, which produces hardened individuals... Pathans aise-waise nahin hote... If a Pathan sets his mind on something, he wonít rest till that has been achieved... Obviously, one has to be talented as well.

On having married late (to Rubina, in 1996)

Thatís because till I was on the circuit (1993), I was married to squash... We have four kids and our son (Umar) is already fond of hitting the squash ball!

On whether he was particular about his diet

No... I like spicy food... Chicken, mutton... Roti-tarkari...

On being a cricket fan

I admired Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas... And, of course, Imran Khan and Javed Miandad... Later, Wasim (Akram)...

On following other sports

Badminton and tennis... I was a fan of (Rudy) Hartono and (Bjorn) Borg.

On squash in India

The way forward is having a role model (squash) player and a closely monitored coaching programme... Itís nice to know that some of the Indian juniors are doing exceedingly well. They will be rewarded as long as they donít look for shortcuts. Believe me, nothing is impossible.

On squash becoming somewhat TV-friendly

Changes are inevitable... The courts are different, the scoring system has changed...

On his ambitious sports complex project

Itís on the premises of the old PIA Jahangir Khan Squash Centre... Hopefully, itís going to be ready in a year.

Finally, on what he remembers most about his interaction with Team India after the Karachi Test

(Smiles) The humility of your players... There were some very big names in the dressing room, the Sachin Tendulkars... Yet, each one of them was down-to-earth... That they knew so much about me was touching... I expect them to go far.

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