Sweat dripping she steps out of the court. One more intense session was over, the third overall and the young sprightly player is still energetic to go in for more. That is Sunayna Kuruvilla, a wisp of a girl, a player passionate about squash and one who dreams of becoming big in the sport one day to match her illustrious cousin, Dipika Pallikal!
Just 16 and in the midst of her 12th standard Board exams, Sunayna did not seem unduly under pressure about her exams. The exams schedule has not stopped her from playing. "I hate to miss a training session at the Indian Squash Academy, " said the chirpy girl, because she believes she spends quality time there under the coaches to hone her skills. Her immediate goal is to get into the senior team before the Asian championship.
Reasonably good in academics, her confidence still needed to be complimented if only because she does not like studies to bog her down. Her confidence there is high. There are other things too to be taken care of! With parents fully behind her to support, Sunayna is clear of her aims and also that she needed to work hard to achieve them. "Like the way my favourite Dipika has done," she would add.
Sunayna only recently made her debut in the senior ranks in the South Asian Games. She was India's second entrant in the singles event in place of Dipika who had pulled out with a strained shoulder. She also played in the team event. In terms of performance there was not much for this Chennai school girl to cherish but playing along with the seniors was a dream, more so with Dipika herself around.
It has been nearly six years now since Sunayna, a tiny girl then joined the ISA inspired by her cousin to take to squash. "Initially, I did not take things too seriously. I would attend the training sessions but that is it. But as time went by my interest grew and I was deeply involved, " she said of her evolvement into a keen student of the sport.
Getting up even before the first rays of sun peeped in and rushing to the courts, a few kilometres away did not appear to be taxing. Similarly leaving for the Academy again soon after returning from school too was hardly a task. "It has a become an enjoyable routine now," said the petite girl without even batting an eyelid.
But her concern, if anything, is that results in terms of ' winning titles ' are yet to come in. Sunanya has been regularly coming upto the final or a step-down but a title win has eluded her in tournaments. She is not overly upset about it. Her progress has been gradual but she is happy that she is on the right path and is under the best tutors including SRFI Consultant coach Maj S. Maniam and National coach Cyrus Poncha at the Academy.
With Dipika for inspiration, Sunayna has the confidence and belief that good times will come. For the moment, however, the young hopeful's target is to shine in the trials ahead to pick the Indian team and also, more importantly, to keep enjoying playing squash as she is doing now.