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National

February 5, 2008
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I am finally back, says Pakistan’s squash star Carla Khan

National

February 5, 2008

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The 26-year-old has catapulted herself from No 229 in the rankings last August to No 52 in the latest list

KARACHI: Almost 18 months after a career-threatening back injury almost shattered her dreams of becoming a squash champion, Pakistan’s Carla Khan has fought her way back on the international women’s circuit, writes Khalid Hussain.

In a story of courage and determination, the 26-year-old Carla has catapulted herself from No 229 in the rankings last August to No 52 in the latest list issued by the Women’s Squash Players Association (WISPA) on Monday.

Carla, a granddaughter of Pakistani squash legend Azam Khan, was warned by doctors to quit squash or risk paralysis after she damaged some disks in her back while representing Pakistan in the 2006 Asian Games in Colombo in the summer of 2006.

But she recovered from the injury, trained hard to get back in shape and resumed her international career last summer with her ranking plunged to rock bottom because of a long absence from the circuit.

She endured a tough journey that is part and parcel of making such a brave comeback and after a few morale-shattering results early on, she is now back on track after wining a title in Austria recently.

Carla was languishing at No 229 almost six month back but is now within striking distance of reclaiming a place in the elite top-50 club. “I’m finally back,” she told ‘The News’ in an interview from London. “It was really tough but now things are falling in place,” she added.

Carla, who laments over the fact that she was deserted by Pakistan’s squash authorities when she needed their help the most, is happy that she did not choose to quit squash. “I love squash and will continue playing for as long as I can,” she said.

Carla began her squash career as a junior player for England but later switched allegiance to the country of her ancestors — Pakistan. In the fall of 2005, Carla became the newest

Khan to take the fast track to squash glory by winning Pakistan’s first-ever international squash tournament in Wah.

Carla, who was born in London and is settled there, reached a career-high No 21 in May, 2003 but has since been unable to break into the top-20 club due to a variety of reasons. She herself believes that more support from the Pakistani sports authorities could have helped her realise her dream of becoming the world number one.

While struggling as a squash professional, she saw Malaysia’s Nicol David become the world number with the help of some solid funding from her country. “You need a lot of funding to excel at the top level,” she said. “Unfortunately I wasn’t very lucky in that area,” she expressed.

But Carla believes she can still earn a place in the top-ten rankings. “I’m working hard and will get there someday,” she added. Meanwhile, in the new February world rankings the number of countries represented by players in the top 20 has risen to an all-time high of 11.

Nicol David retained the number one position, extending her unbroken reign at the top to 19 months, while Samantha Teran makes her debut in the top 20 to become the first-ever Mexican to feature in the elite women’s list. The countries represented in the world top 20 now feature Malaysia, Australia, USA, England, New Zealand, Egypt, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Ireland, France and Mexico. New Zealander Shelley Kitchen also has much to celebrate in the new list — after jumping three places to a career-best No 7 ranking.

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