x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Back to school for Games youngest

Khaaliqa Nimji, a 12-year-old schoolgirl who beat her mother, Salima, to qualify for the Kenyan squash team, can concentrate fully on her homework.

Khaaliqa Nimji, a 12-year-old schoolgirl who beat her mother, Salima, to qualify for the Kenyan squash team, can concentrate fully on her homework now that her Commonwealth Games adventure has come to an end. 

Nimji was granted time off school to become the youngest athlete at the Games, but her teachers made sure she did not fall too far behind by sending her some work to do while she was in Delhi to compete in the singles, mixed and women's doubles events.

"I'm working in the evenings, textbook work stuff and reading," the articulate youngster said yesterday as she watched members of the English team training. Weighing just 30kg and only 1.39 metres (4ft 5.5ins) tall it is easy to overlook Nimji among the tall and physical squash players at the Siri Fort Sports Complex. Softly spoken, she does not give off the impression of a ruthless competitor. However, when it came down to a match with her mother during the Kenyan trials for the Games, her competitive side was apparent.

"That was very hard," Nimji said, with a coy smile. "But I managed to beat her and I made it to the team and I was hoping she would too but unfortunately she didn't." For Nimji, flanked by her proud mother and coach, losing every match in Delhi is of no concern. Just being at the Games and competing against the likes of Nicol David, the world No 1, was for her like winning a gold medal. "It is just the beginning for me and big tournaments and I have a long way to go and I'm just having fun," she said.

Nimji took up squash aged just four when her father, Sadri Nimji, a Kenyan champion, coached her and her mother. "I beat everybody except her," Salima, her mother, said in reference to the trials. "No [I didn't go easy on her], somehow she plays very well against me. Her skills are better than mine."