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October 9, 2011
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Squash hero Jansher Khan battling Parkinson’s disease

National

October 9, 2011

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KARACHI: Squash legend Jansher Khan, one of Pakistan’s most accomplished sportsmen of all time, is suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Family sources told ‘The News’ on Saturday that Jansher, who won a record eight World Open titles, has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease following a series of tests.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali is the world’s most famous Parkinson’s patient.
Like Muhammad Ali, Jansher, who is currently attached with Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) as an advisor and head coach, has also been diagnosed with this mystery illness at the age of 42.
Dr Zafar, who is supervising Jansher’s treatment, confirmed on Saturday that the former world number one has already begun what is feared to be a long-drawn battle with the disease.
“There is no cure of this disease but we have the sort of treatment available today that can slow it down,” said the doctor.
It is sad news for Pakistan’s sports community for whom the Peshawar-born Jansher is an all-time great. He is inarguably one of the most successful players in the history of squash having acclaimed eight World and six British Open titles.
Jansher shot to international fame when he won the world junior title in Singapore back in 1986. He didn’t waste much time in becoming a full-time professional and became the number one opponent of the previously invincible Jahangir Khan.
For years, the Jahangir-Jansher rivalry made international headlines. Their partnership, meanwhile, earned great laurels for Pakistan with the 1993 World Team Championship triumph in Karachi being the last one.
Jansher beat the legendary Jahangir Khan in the semifinals of the 1987 World Open before conquering Australia’s Chris Dittmar in the final to win his first World Open crown. He is the only player in squash history to have won both the senior and junior titles in the same year.
Jansher went

on to win seven more World Open titles to create a record that is still intact today. Jansher clinched his last World Open in 1996 but was forced to stay away from the 1997 edition which was held in Kuala Lumpur because of a pending court order in Malaysia relating to maintenance payments for his son, Kamran Khan, following his separation from his Malaysian wife.
Jansher, who hails from a family of world-class squash players, stayed as the world’s number one squash player for almost ten years, also a record. In all, he won a total of 99 PSA World Tour titles. A knee injury forced him to retire in 2001.
Six years later, Jansher decided to make his international comeback and featured in a Professional Squash Association tournament in London in October 2007 at the age of 38.
Far from his brilliant best, Jansher lost in the opening round of the event to England’s Scott Handley 11-9, 6-11, 6-11 11-0.
Last year, the PSF roped him in as its advisor as well as national coach. But the move backfired after several of the leading national players, most of them related to Jansher, refused to train under the former champion because of family disputes.
In the recent past, Jansher has mostly been out of the picture.
A close family member of Jansher told ‘The News’ that the former champion has been showing signs of a mystery illness since last year. “His (Jansher’s) hands would start shaking suddenly. Sometimes he used to act strangely as he his mind went out of control,” he said.
Following a series of tests carried out in the last few weeks, it was confirmed that Jansher is suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease results from the death of dopamine-generating cells in a region of the midbrain. The cause of cell-death remains a mystery. Early in the course of the disease, the most obvious symptoms are movement-related, including shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty with walking and gait. The disease is more common in the elderly with most cases occurring after the age of 50. It is named after the English doctor James Parkinson, who published the first detailed description in An Essay on the Shaking Palsy in 1817.
Muhammad Ali is the world’s most famous Parkinson’s patient. He was 42 at diagnosis although he already showed signs of Parkinson’s when he was 38.
Another famous patient is Hollywood actor Michael J Fox. Fox was diagnosed in 1991 when he was 30, but kept his condition secret from the public for seven years.

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