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. Read the rest of this entry »

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