Lack of competition among girls in squash: Alankamony
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India's No. 1 squash juniors Mahesh Mangaonkar of Mumbai and Anaka Alankamony of Tamil Nadu are bracing for sterner tests ahead, following significant achievements in the recent past that promises to take their favourite sport to the next level. Mangaonkar and Alankamony, and the exploits of Sourav Ghosal and Dipika Pallikal, have inspired a legion of juniors that has swelled the tally of squash players all over the country like never before.
"For example, we have had a remarkable 600 entries for the sub junior and junior nationals at the (CCI) which is a fantastic reflection of the sport's growing popularity," explained national coach Cyrus Poncha. "Squash has definitely picked up in India and hopefully, it will get into the Olympics soon. We've come a long way, though I must admit, there's a lot more to be done."
Poncha believes there are enough facilities in India, but he rues the dearth of top players to compete, along with the need for more coaches, more funding and academies like the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai.
"We still have to take squash to the masses and for that we need more public facilities. Not everyone has access to private clubs like the CCI or the Bombay Gymkhana. So we are trying to develop the sport in all the states," says Poncha.
Despite the drawbacks, Poncha points out to Alankamony winning the Asian Junior Championship in 2011 and 2012 and is currently No. 6 while Mangaonkar is No. 8 in the world among juniors. India also won the bronze for boys and girls, respectively, in the World Junior Championships and a World Cup silver.
Eighteen-year-old Alankamony, who is on the threshold of taking over the reins from Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal, is a product of the Indian Squash Academy.
Alankamony arrived in Mumbai fresh from her maiden title triumph abroad and her second on the women's professional tour, after winning the Ipswich Open recently where she stunned top seed and world No. 39 Kylie Lindsay of New Zealand.