CHENNAI: Juggling a fledgling sports career while also focussing on academics half a world away cannot be easy, but Velavan Senthilkumar seems to be learning the ropes of it all, slowly and steadily. In his first tournament post-lockdown, he couldn’t have been more enthused to return to the court and beat Navaneeth Prabhu to secure the title at the Tamil Nadu Closed Championship last week.
Clutching his latest spoils: the Champions trophy, the 22-year-old squash player talks to TNIE about his passion for the sport and plans. A student of Psychology at Columbia University in New York, USA, Velavan doesn’t miss a beat to play at various local squash tournaments in New York City. “I am glad to gain some family time due to the pandemic.
My parents have always supported me in all aspects. I spend my weekends at home playing badminton with my dad. My brother plays badminton too, but much like me, he’s very passionate about squash. They led me into a career with squash and have encouraged me to play to my heart’s desire,” said Velavan, sharing that his father played basketball at the national level and his mother was a regular for India in badminton.
With many titles already under his belt, including a British Junior Open in 2017 (third Indian to do so), and a much-coveted PSA title in 2018 at the Madison Open, Velavan hopes to be featured in the professional circuit. The winner of the Asian junior individual title in 2016, Velavan has won multiple squash events at various Ivy League competitions in the US, but his heart still lies in playing in Tamil Nadu, it seems.
Playing for the last 13 years, Velavan feels least daunted by the sweltering heat or the risks associated with playing in the middle of a raging pandemic. His love for the sport is more important to him than where he plays, he said. “There is so much hunger in me to keep playing that as long as I can I will continue,” he shared.
The state has produced many notable players, including Joshna Chinnappa and Dipika Pallikal. If Velavan continues on his recent upward trajectory, he could well join the illustrious list of players who have made a name in the sport.