Eleven years ago, she was virtually on the threshold of conquering the world. It was at Herentals in Belgium and Joshna Chinappa, fresh from the triumph in the British Open Juniors and top-seeded in the event, had reached the final of the World Junior Squash Championship. Just Reneem El Weleily of Egypt, the second seed to beat for the coveted title, the Indian succumbed to pressure there.
“I lost in straight games. Those days the game ended on 9 points. But I remember being 8-3 up in the third game but lost there,” recalled the top Indian about that match. Joshna acknowledges she had lost to a better player. “Oh she was very good and you have seen where she has reached thereafter,” she said in all humility.
The Indian star remembers those moments fresh in her mind, she says, “Those moments I can never forget. I had done well in the British Open, won the title and that was perhaps why they top-seeded me here. I was tensed up for the event but keep focus and my confidence took me to the final, “ she recalls that Belgium odyssey. That was the time when Joshna was the lone participant from India.
“I remember I was accompanied by my mother. I had special training in Amsterdam at the hands of Liz Irving, a top Australian coach. It was the Sports Minister ,the late Shri Sunil Dutt who ensured I had some government grants for this,” the Indian recalled as though all this had happened just the other day.
As another edition of the World Junior Championship gets underway in Poland, all that this top-20 player advises her junior country-mates is “to focus and play with confidence”. Much has happened to sports in general and squash in particular. Sports has received a greater thrust, believes Joshna, and facilities and eagerness to develop sports have come in a big way. Sponsors have also moved into sports in an encouraging way. So much so that, all that a sportsperson needs is to leave much of the worries behind and focus on the job in the arena.
The present squad of six boys and five girls for the individual and team (boys only) have had the benefit of good structured training, exposure to quality competitions and a few, like Velavan Senthil Kumar, Aditya Raghavan in the boys section and Akanksha Salunkhe and Sunayna Kuruvilla, have had the benefit of playing in international level competitions before.
The new Egyptian coach Ashraf el Karugui is impressed, from the little he has seen so far of the players to admit that he expected a surprise or two from them. Ranjit Singh, Abhay Singh, Robin Singh and Aryaman Adik are the others in the boys side, while Adiya Advani, Jui Kalgutkar and Ashita Bhengre complete the girls side for the individual competitions. There is no team event for girls this year. National coach Cyrus Poncha prefers to be guarded in his views on the team’s prospects, though he said that a podium finish was the goal.
Years ago Joshna too had made that her goal when she stepped on the courts in Herentals. No other Indian has reached the level that she had in this championship. That in itself should be an inspiring message for the current lot.Published 06 Aug 2016, 13:36 IST