Yesterday I heard for the first time about the greatest squash player in the history of the game: Jahinger Khan. He was undefeated for almost six years and won 555 matches in a row! This is the longest record of consecutive wins by any athlete in any sport. After that loss, he was undefeated for another nine months.

How he even began playing squash is a story I just discovered in the following excerpts by Richard Eaton from the official Dunlop British Squash Open program

“When Hashim Khan returned home (to Pakistan) after winning his first British Open in 1951, he was driven through Peshawar in an open top car amidst celebrations so great that schools were closed for the day.

When Hashim won it again, his distant relative Roshan Khan, who had once been a street sleeper, came to England with £5, a borrowed overcoat and warnings that he would starve. Instead, his capture of the British Open title by beating Hashim in the 1957 final opened a door to a better life and did much to begin the Khan legend.”

Roshan then taught his son, Jahangir Khan, who won the British Open ten times and was eventually named the Sportsman of the Millennium, with his image cast on postage stamps.

Jahangir Khan—1984

Jahangir Khan—1984

Startling enough that this superhuman athlete’s father used to sleep in the streets. Listen to how unlikely that Jahinger would even play any sport. During his earlier years, Jahangir was a sickly child and physically very weak. Though the doctors had advised him not to take part in any sort of physical activity, after undergoing a couple of hernia operations, his father let him play and try out their family game.

In 1979, the Pakistan selectors decided not to choose Jahangir to play in the world championships in Australia, judging him too weak from a recent illness. Jahangir decided instead to enter himself in the World Amateur Individual Championship and, at the age of 15, became the youngest-ever winner of that event.

In 1981, when he was 17, Jahangir became the youngest winner of the World Open, beating Australia’s Geoff Hunt (the game’s dominant player in the late-1970s) in the final. That tournament marked the start of an unbeaten run which lastedover five years and over 500 matches. The hallmark of his play was his incredible fitness and stamina, which his cousin, Rehmat Khan, helped him build up through a punishing training and conditioning regime. Jahangir was quite simply the fittest player in the game, and would wear his opponents down through long rallies played at a furious pace.

In 1982, Jahangir astonished everyone by winning the International Squash Players Association Championship without losing a single point.

Here is part of a documentary in Pakistan that interviews him perhaps in 2009, tells his story, and shows him playing squash as a youth.

The unbeaten run finally came to end in the final of the World Open in 1986 in Toulouse, France, when Jahangir lost to New Zealand’s Ross Norman. Norman had been in pursuit of Jahangir’s unbeaten streak, being beaten time and time again. “One day Jahangir will be slightly off his game and I will get him,” he vowed for five years.

Speaking about his unbeaten streak, Jahangir said: “It wasn’t my plan to create such a record. All I did was put in the effort to win every match I played and it went on for weeks, months and years until my defeat to Ross Norman.”

“The pressure began to mount as I kept winning every time, and people were anxious to see if I could be beaten. In that World Open final, Ross got me. It was exactly five years and eight months. I was unbeaten for another nine months after that defeat.”

In a documentary on himself telecast on GEO Super, Jahangir revealed that he never had any fixed training regime particularly designed for him, nor had he any specially formulated diet – he would eat anything hygienic but never miss two glasses of milk every day.

For his training, he would often start his day with a 9-mile (14 km) jog which he would complete in 60–120 minutes at a moderate pace, followed by short bursts of timed sprints. Later he would weight train in the gym finally cooling down in the pools. He would follow this routine 5 days a week. On the 6th day he would match practice and rest on the 7th day.

He also said that he has experienced running on every surface – from custom-built tracks to asphalt roads, grass & farm fields to sea shores & knee-deep waters. Sometimes he would also visit the northern areas of Pakistan to train in high altitude fields under low oxygen conditions. All in all it made Jahangir one of the most physically and mentally fit athletes in the world.