By Jim Conrad, Sportscaster
He was the Muhammad Ali, the Jack Nicklaus, the Pele of his sport — squash. Hashim Khan was the undisputed greatest squash player of all time.
He won the British Open Squash Championships (then the de facto world championship) seven times, six straight from 1951 to 1956 and then again in 1958.
Khan started playing competitive squash late, in his 30’s, because his home country Pakistan didn’t gain its independence from India until 1947. Only then did Khan receive backing to play for his country in the British Open.
He was the leader of the Khan dynasty in squash. His brothers, children, cousins and other relatives all became dynamic players. Of the 41 British Opens played from 1951 to 1991, a member of the Khan family won the tournament 23 times, often defeating another Khan in the final. But, it was Hashim Khan who was always hailed as the greatest ever to play.
In 1961, Khan was recruited to move to the United States, where he spent the second half of his life teaching at squash clubs, first in Detroit and later at the Denver Athletic Club. The American game was somewhat different — with a harder ball and a smaller court — but he continued to win tournaments, usually defeating players a decade or two younger. He was known for wearing down opponents by relentlessly returning their every shot — and for never appearing to sweat. He could adapt his game to any opponent and there was no shot he could not hit.
Legend might not be a strong enough word to describe Hashim Khan. Khan moved his family to Denver in 1973 and he became the head squash professional at the Denver Athletic Club. He continued to play competitively, but also began to coach and train new generations of squash players. He had an irrepressible personality. His enthusiasm and love for the game of squash was unmatched.
Because of Khan, Denver became a mecca for squash. One of the longest running professional squash tournaments in the world is played every year at the Denver Athletic Club. The Hashim Khan Squash Championship is now in its 38th year, attracting players from all over the world.
Khan died August 18, 2014. No one ever had a real birth certificate for Khan, but he was believed to be at least 100 at his death, perhaps even 104.
Squash may be an under-appreciated sport in the United States, but the force of nature that was Hashim Khan brought Denver and Colorado to the forefront of the squash world during his time at the Denver Athletic Club.
For all his accomplishments, Hashim Khan is honored posthumously by the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
I know what I do, and I give thanks for this gift, fast thinking.