Squash great Hashim Khan dies Monday night
DENVER (AP) Hashim Khan, one of the greatest squash players of all time, died of congestive heart failure Monday night. He was believed to be 100.
His son, Mo, said in a phone interview that Khan died in his home in Aurora, Colorado, with family by his side.
Khan was the patriarch who got the ball rolling on Pakistan's squash supremacy, winning seven British Open titles, including his first in 1951 at an age when most players retire. Khan brought his family to the U.S. in the early 1960s after being offered a lucrative deal to teach squash in Detroit. He later took a pro position in Denver and played the game into his 90s.
Over the last six months, his health had drastically deteriorated. Hospice workers were providing around-the-clock care for him at his home.
Before he died at 10:05 p.m. EDT, he told his family to get his shoes, cane and passport because he was going to see his wife, who died a few years ago.
''The world just lost the greatest player of all time,'' said Mo Khan, the youngest of 12 kids. ''He's going to be remembered for his sportsmanship and for what a wonderful man he was. He loved his family first and loved the game of squash and everyone that played the game. He was one of a kind.''
No one knew the exact age of Khan since he never had a birth certificate. The family's best guess was 100 and that's what they celebrated on July 1.
Just another intriguing layer to the lore of Khan, who learned the play the game barefoot.
A vast collection of his trophies are displayed inside the Hashim Khan Trophy Room, which is a squash court the members at the Denver Athletic Club converted into a shrine to him.
Khan was exposed to squash through his father, Abdullah, a chief steward at a British officer's club in Peshawar. Back then, the youngster would go to the outdoor courts to watch the officers play and fetch their errant shots.
Eventually, the officers would head inside to escape the baking sun. That's when Khan sauntered onto the court and emulated their shots wearing no shoes, holding a cracked racket and using a broken ball.
His father died in a car accident when he was 11, and he dropped out of school to become a full-time ball boy. He honed his skills playing the officers in friendly games. He later became one of the club's squash coaches.
At 37 - and at the behest of the Pakistan government eager for a national hero - Khan went to the British Open, considered the most prestigious tournament. He beat the best player in the world, Mahmoud El Karim of Egypt, 9-5, 9-0, 9-0, for his first title. His last was at 44.
About then, he taught his brother, Azam, to play squash and he won four titles. Hashim Khan's cousin, Roshan Khan, and nephew, Mohibullah Khan, each captured one. Throw in Khan's cousin's son, Jahangir Khan, who dominated the scene at one point by winning 10 straight titles, and the ''Khan Dynasty'' accounted for 23 British Open titles.
Mo Khan said his father's funeral is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday.