His first name, Jahangir, means “conqueror of the world” in Persian. His last name, Khan, is synonymous with domination in the game of squash. Put the names together and you have Jahangir Khan, a 20-year-old Pakistani who has indeed conquered the squash world.
Khan won the world championship three years ago in Toronto and the British Open the following year. This May he added the North American Open to his ever-expanding list of victories. What makes this win special is the fact that the North American game, which is played with a hardball, is very different from the international game, which is played with a softball. “I’ve done everything in squash,” says Khan, who was weaned on the softball.
It is remarkable that Jahangir can play the game at all, let alone at such an elevated level, since he was born with a hernia and told by doctors that he couldn’t exercise vigorously. Yet coming from a family that has ruled the game for three decades, how could he not play squash? So, armed with a sawed-off racquet, 7-year-old Jahangir would hit balls against a wall every afternoon. He had his first hernia operation at 5, the second at age 12, and hasn’t been bothered since.
Khan, who speaks with a gentle British accent, spends 10 months a year playing in tournaments and lives with his family in Pakistan the rest of the time. As professional sports go, the money to be made from squash is peanuts, yet Khan’s manager, Ron Morton, estimates that Jahangir will earn about $400,000 from tournaments and exhibitions this year.
The young conqueror isn’t about to get blasé. “Winning one tournament,” he says, “just makes me want to win the next one.” He has formed a company to market a line of racquets and clothing. Its name, like its founder, is Unsquashable.