Hit­ting Back

Ab­hishek Ku­mar, 16, Squash player, Chandigarh

India Today - - COVERSTORY -

SUC­CESS STORY Ku­mar won a gold medal at the All In­dia Un­der-17 Khelshala tour­na­ment in Chandigarh in Novem­ber. “I would love to play squash across the coun­try and be­yond,” says Ku­mar, who dreams of be­com­ing a squash coach one day.

AGAINST ODDS Ku­mar says his mother’s ill­ness is al­ways on his mind. That it is never easy for some­one from an un­der­priv­i­leged back­ground try­ing to make a mark na­tion­ally. “But I know this sport will take me far and make peo­ple sit up and take no­tice,” says the young man who has been play­ing squash since the age of nine at Khelshala in Chandigarh.

COACH TALK Satin­der Ba­jwa, the for­mer coach of Har­vard Univer­sity’s squash team, who is the di­rec­tor of Chandigarh-based Khelshala, says, “Ku­mar is a com­mit­ted player. Take my word for it—we are look­ing at the next na­tional cham­pion.” Ba­jwa has been work­ing to up­lift the liv­ing stan­dards of young­sters from eco­nom­i­cally weaker sec­tions through sports like squash and ten­nis.

ROAD BLOCKS Lament­ing that the cost of the equip­ment and very few squash courts in the coun­try dis­cour­age young­sters tak­ing up this game, he adds, “Most squash court mem­ber­ships are so ex­pen­sive that stu­dents, es­pe­cially those who do not come from priv­i­leged back­grounds, al­ways find the gates closed.”

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