Many people have held important positions in sport, some have made a real difference, but only a very few have been pathfinders. Susie Simcock was one of these. Now, at aged 82, she has passed away to find a new path.
Her list of roles, both in New Zealand sport and internationally, is lengthy; and it indicates how well-thought of she has been – universally liked and respected to be more accurate. But perhaps a killer fact is that when she was elected as President of the World Squash Federation in 1996 – the first and only female one so far – she also became only the third President of an international mixed sport governing body.
But to rewind, while Susie only started playing squash after hockey and athletics at university her talent took her to the upper echelons nationally. Soon though, she became immersed in management, administration and leadership generally, while working as a physiotherapist.
She managed NZ teams at World Squash Championships, and when the Women’s World Open & Team Championship came to Auckland in 1987, she was a natural for the role of Championship Director.
By 1989 she had been elected as a World Federation Vice-President, and the international squash family saw clearly her vision, decisiveness and general leadership. But more than that, she was described as a ‘peoples person’ for her warmth and ability to empathise – while achieving her intentions going forward as her smile disarmed.
Susie became was the WSF president from 1996-2002 and was held in such high esteem for her leadership skills that as her second three year term came to an end there was a clamour for the maximum to be amended to allow her to continue!
However, even after stepping down and being accorded the position of Emeritus President she continued to be an influential force – including leading the effort to have squash accepted as an Olympic sport for London 2012, which narrowly failed.
Her highly successful career as a sport leader was not confined to squash and a glimpse of her roles and awards only go to reinforce how lucky squash has been to have Susie Simcock so fully involved.
* Governor of New Zealand’s Sports Foundation chair
* New Zealand Olympic Committee’s Women in Sport Committee member
* The first female council member of the General Assembly of International Sporting Federations
* Leading role in uniting the NZ male and female golf federations
* Governor for the International Masters Games Association
* Executive member of the NZ Olympic & Commonwealth Games Association (Life membership was awarded to her in 1996)
* Holder of the New Zealand Order of Merit
* Distinguished service award of the Commonwealth Games Federation.
* Recipient of the IOC Women in Sport Award
When Susie Simcock was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours, Jahangir Khan (pictured with Susie Simcock) who succeeded her as World Squash Federation President summed up the feelings of the squash community as a whole when he said
"This is tremendous acknowledgment of the distinguished service Susie has given to our sport for most of her life, and in particular to her total service of fifteen years on the Management Committee of the WSF. Her work within the Olympic family on behalf of our sport has been outstanding. I know that everybody in squash will want to join me in offering sincerest congratulations to Susie for this magnificent and richly-deserved award."
Another indication of her decisive nature came in recent weeks when she was diagnosed with a malignant duodenum tumour. It was her decision not to waste precious time on debilitating treatment with little chance of success, but to carry on spending time with her husband Jon, children and grand-children while she was able to.
Susie has been a friend, a beacon, an inspiration and a role model for countless people, who, along with her family, have had a tear ripped into their lives. She once said that all through her career she had been breaking down barriers, encouraging more sports to have women in their leadership roles. Susie Simcock will be fondly and enduringly remembered for not just succeeding, but for simply being a totally special person too.