The world championships for squash are in Bellevue this week -- and it's all thanks to one family.
Azam Khan, one of the organizers, learned the sport from his dad. His dad grew up working at British squash courts in Pakistan and India. He was one of many boys who fetched stray balls for British officers. But the boys had a secret.
Azam Khan: “They would play in the middle of the night, when it was dark.”
They became better players than the British. Then one of them went on to win the world championship in 1951.
Azam Khan: “The whole country just loved it. He was like a hero coming back. He had roses all around him, flowers.”
Squash exploded in popularity in Pakistan. And where Pakistanis went – they took their love of squash with them.
Khan’s father brought squash to Seattle. Later Khan brought squash to Bellevue.
At Pro Sports Club in Bellevue, two athletes compete for the ball in the qualifying rounds. The crowd follows their every move. Many of these fans were drawn to the sport by the Khan family.
Khan trained his sister Shabana in her quest to become a squash champion. She says he was a tough coach.
Shabana Khan: “I’d ask for water, and he’d say, ‘I don’t think so.’ He would not let me go get water! And he’d make me play and play, and he’d say, ‘OK, now you can go get your water.’”
Shabana Khan put in the bid that brought the international championship here to Bellevue.
The Khans love seeing squash flourish here. But at the same time, Azam Khan says squash has declined in Pakistan.
Azam Khan: “I don’t think they have the same hunger that they used to.”
The hunger has passed on to another country.
Azam Khan: “Egypt. Egypt’s taking over.”
Egyptian players are getting a shot this week at the tournament. One of them is Omar Abdel Meguid. He says Egyptian players don’t have a lot of support back home. So they’re all self-motivated.
Meguid: “We just want to win, and I think it’s just how we live. It’s a very hectic kind of life at home. So we’re very competitive – maybe even more competitive than anyone else, so I think that’s why we’re good at what we do.”
The 2015 Men's World Squash Championships run through Sunday at Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.