24 Questions with Dato' Nicol David on her hometown Penang

24 Questions with Dato' Nicol David on her hometown Penang

A true Penangite at heart

Text: Rachel Au

Image: iStock
Image: Getty

One of Malaysia's heroes, Dato' Nicol David talks about her hometown in Penang, shares her favourite places to eat and more

Before she became one of Malaysia's heroes representing the country on the world stage (while winning numerous medals at the same time), Dato' Nicol Ann David was born and bred in Penang, enjoying the various fanfare the island has to offer—while training her way to becoming a professional squash player. Besides devoting her time to squash and being one of the ambassadors for Louis Vuitton and UNICEF's campaign to help make the world a better place for children, Dato' Nicol David also has an avid passion for her hometown. As we were in Penang for our #BuroRoadTrip, we thought who better to ask about Penang than a true Penangite like her. 




What is your favourite memory about Penang?

Running around the grassy hill area of the Bukit Dumbar Squash Centre when I was about four years old and hanging out with my two sisters. I was then introduced to squash when I was five to stop me from running around too much and instead to stay put in a squash court. 


What was it like growing up in Penang?

It was a lot of fun, especially during my time at Convent Green Lane both in primary and secondary school where I shared some great moments with my friends.

Penang is truly my home in every sense of the word. I'm very proud that we have kept our charm and beauty by looking after the heritage of our island that is so significant to us.

Would you say there's a difference between life in Penang and KL?

Penang is an island surrounded by nature and it has a very relaxed environment. Everything is accessible because the island is not too big to go around. We don't have to go through the hustle and bustle of the big city life like KL.


What do you like best about Penang?

I love how the colonial buildings within the town area have been restored so beautifully and of course, the food is the best!


What are some misconceptions about Penang?

That it is still behind in terms of design and technology. We are actually making a lot of progress with modernizing the town while retaining its rich heritage/culture.




How did you get into squash?

My father's friend built the first public squash centre at Bukit Dumbar and invited my sisters to take lessons. I joined them a little afterwards.


What's a day like in your life?

I get up, have breakfast, get through my first training session (either squash with my coach, Liz Irving or a pure physical workout session) then lunch, second training session (again either squash or physical), dinner then chill in the evening on the sofa—or sometimes I get a recovery session with my sports therapist. After that, I need to ensure I get enough sleep and be ready for the next day of training.


How do you destress?

I sometimes go for some basic street dance classes or catch some live music gigs in Amsterdam. I also draw or doodle in my free time. 


Do you have a special diet as an athlete? 

In Amsterdam, I'm generally surrounded by healthier food and I replace my energy well with a balanced meal after my training sessions. While in Penang though, I pick my moments to fit in some of my favourite meals or indulge in my mum's cooking.

nicol david squash interview


Penang is home.

If Penang was a food, it would be char koay teow.

A true Penangite is a foodie.

Another famous Penangite you know is Datuk Lee Chong Wei.

If you can only eat one Penang food for the rest of your life, it would be seafood (more specifically, crab).

How often do you go back to Penang? Three to four times a year.

Char Kuey Teow or Penang Hokkien Mee? Char Kuey Teow; extra spicy with duck egg (smiles).

Last person you called? My parents.

If you weren't a professional squash player, you would be an athlete in another sport.

If you could have one wish, what would it be? To have access to Char Kuey Teow wherever I travel.


Check out Dato' Nicol David's new website or follow her on Instagram @nicoldsquash.


Related stories:

Exclusive: The second wave of Louis Vuitton's #MakeAPromise, starring Dato' Nicol David

#RoadToRio: 5 Malaysian athletes on their first Olympic Games

An interview with: Penang-based sculptural jeweller Jonathan Yun