Parents are always known to be the best backbone for most of us. The value of parents in our lives can never be ignored. Growing up being the son of a lecturer in the Architectural line of industry, I grasped my mother’s traits at its finest between trying to strike a balance, compromising on the number of hours I can realistically exert to every aspect of living. The spark of my journey as a squash player began at the age of 11 when my uncle, who was an ex-state player, introduced me to the sport. At first, I thought about diving into badminton but I fell in love with this sport right away the first time I stepped onto the squash court. The sound of the ball hitting the wall and the pace of both players running back and forth to retrieve every shot; the combination made it feel extremely intense. With my blazing passion in sports, I made the decision to get transferred to Bukit Jalil Sports School to devote myself in this preferential path.
As a student-athlete, the responsibility needed in balancing both academics and sports was crucial because competitive sports and academics always work side by side. There are days where I will be catching up the train at 6:15am in the morning to get to classes before 8am and then rush back to the national centre for my training sessions. There are also days where I could not make it back to the national centre in time for my training session. Fortunately, Sunway has plenty of squash courts nearby and also a gymnasium on campus which is extremely beneficial for student-athletes who have a really tight schedule. I remember having my session a few times in the gymnasium and then rushing back for my classes in the afternoon. Undoubtedly, it was inexplicably draining, both mentally and physically but it is definitely possible if you have the right balance and time management. Although I found it very hard to balance these lifestyles at the beginning, the thought of quitting or giving up never crossed my mind. Whenever I feel stressed out or stuck, I tend to rewind my visions and reach out for help especially from my lecturers, coaches, family and friends who are all really supportive of me in this journey.
As an athlete, getting an injury is my biggest nightmare. I had episodes of injuries throughout my career. Few months ago, I suffered from chronic lower back pain. On some days, I could not even stand straight. This went on for a few months and after a few tests, I found out that the root of the pain is because of a herniated disc that has been pinching the spinal nerve. I had a series of injections and procedures from the hospital to help me to soothe the symptoms as well as multiple appointments with my physiotherapist every week. At some point, I felt devastated because I could not go for my training sessions but deep down in my heart I am aware that if I am able to recover as quickly as possible, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. After a few months of recovery and rehabilitation, I was more than grateful during my first competition given that I didn't have as much training as everyone else but still managed to get up to par with my seniors. Even though the traumatic experience was still there, the eagerness of getting back on court made me forget about everything else from the outside world. I did not win the competition, but I know that I am getting closer and closer to where I want to be. I am also very thankful for the endless support from everyone, especially my parents who have been putting their trust in me since day 1. Without those harrowing episodes, I wouldn't know how to listen to my body or how to deal with setbacks. I will always see injuries as an opportunity for personal learning and growth while identifying the skills that help me succeed as an athlete.
Being offered the scholarship in Sunway is not just about recognition. From my perspective, it is an award for all the hard work and effort that I've put into my passion in sport. There are a number of achievements that I strongly remember but my proudest achievement so far was winning the Asian Championship a few years back. That has been my motivation to strive and improve my game ever since. Undeniably, squash is not a really popular sport in our country. I tried to use this opportunity that Sunway gave to me to introduce and promote this sport to the community. This is the least that I could do to give back to the sport for now by spreading this awareness in hope that many more people will recognize it and therefore opening a pathway for upcoming squash players to further their studies in Sunway College. One thing that I have learned from this beautiful journey is when life knocks you down, it shows you things that you can't see, and those things are going to make you stronger and wiser. Nothing grows in the comfort zone, so
we have to be honest with ourselves by taking the risks and then amaze ourselves with what is possible. To quote what my coach said, “Being comfortable in uncomfortable”.
I am Danial Nurhaqiem and this is #MySunwayStory.
Cambridge GCE Advanced-Level
Sunway Sports Scholarship