With four locations now behind them, and the pair’s on-court challenge finely-poised at two wins apiece, former world champion Peter Nicol MBE and fellow former professional Tim Garner are now past the half-way mark of their remarkableXodus 7 Continent Challenge - the bid to contest 7 Squash Matches in 7 Days on 7 Continents to raise the profile of Squash’s campaign to join the programme of the 2020 Olympic Games.
By Saturday, the Xodus 7 Continent Challenge will have seen the intrepid English pair travel more than 40,000 miles and spend over 70 hours on planes over the course of a week that will have been a test of endurance both mentally and physically.
After beginning their initiative in Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands near ‘Antarctica’ on Saturday, the ‘squashbuckling’ heroes moved onto the Chile capital Santiago in South America on Sunday, then crossed the international date line to be in Sydney in Australia on Tuesday, before arriving in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in Asia today.
In addition to battling with tight airline schedules, the intense and demanding schedule has involved a spread of media interviews and photocalls at all stopovers; clinics and exhibition matches with local enthusiasts; plus the all-important challenge matches.
Nicol, the former world number one and winner of four Commonwealth Games gold medals, took an early lead in Port Stanley, winning the first match 11-9, 11-9, 8-11, 9-11, 12-10 in 65 minutes.
Garner, a former world No26, grabbed revenge in Santiago, winning 12-10, 6-11, 11-9, 8-11, 12-10 in 60 minutes. Despite the arduous ordeal, the pair continued to fight tooth and nail in Sydney – where underdog Garner edged ahead, winning 13-15, 11-5, 11-8, 11-9 in 45 minutes.
And it was back to a marathon clash which went the full distance today on the new all-glass showcourt at the Bukit Jalil National Squash Centre in KL where Nicol drew the series level at two-all with an 11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 10-12, 11-8 victory in 49 minutes.
“We have been delighted by the response to the Xodus 7 Continent Challenge, not only at the various stage venues but also globally from the social media messages of support,” said Garner, en-route to KL airport. “There has also been a great deal of interest in what we are trying to achieve, including SKY News in Australia coming to the airport to meet us off the plane from Chile!
“Most of all it has reconfirmed our belief in the sport and the fact that it will really add something to the Olympics should we be added to the programme in 2020.
“In terms of the squash, considering the travel demands I think we have played to a pretty reasonable standard and the crowds all seem to have enjoyed it,” added the 42-year-old from London. “Two-all is a fair reflection to-date with each of us having moments of strength and tiredness, so it’s difficult to predict an eventual winner – but if I have to, I am going to back myself!
“PS – Peter is backing himself!” concluded Garner.
World Squash Federation CEO Andrew Shelley is delighted with the campaign: “This has been a wonderful initiative which has really grabbed general interest and given our 2020 Olympic Games ‘Vote4Squash’ campaign a significant lift. We are indebted to our tireless ambassadors Peter and Tim and to their sponsors Xodus who made it possible.
“The Challenge emphasises the truly global status of our sport and hope it will given even more realisation to the dream of those squash players who hope to be competing in the Olympic Games for the first time in 2020.”
As well as profiling the Olympic Bid, the Xodus 7 Continent Challenge will be raising monies for two squash causes: The first is to support Squash’s inclusion in the LV= SOS Kit Aid Scheme, and the second Natasha’s Steps, a trust set up help young squash player Natasha Drake who is recovering from an idiopathic bleed on her brain.
Nicol and Garner are now flying to the Egyptian capital Cairo for the next leg in Africa, from where they head home toEurope on Friday for the penultimate stopover in London – before bringing the extravaganza to a climax in New York inNorth America on Saturday.