KOCHI: ASK Cherupuzha native Jolly Mathew Thaickal, what his town in Kannur district is known for and the former physical education teacher would identify it as a quiet region known primarily for agriculture. Being a volleyball coach, Jolly proudly says that international player Joby Joseph also belongs to the same neighbourhood. However, these days, the Thaickal house is quietly trying to make the area known for more than just farming or volleyball. Jolly’s younger daughter Treesa Jolly is a badminton player who is starting to make waves in the sport and is already a path-breaker of sort for others her hometown.
The 17-year-old is in the top ten of the latest junior rankings released by Badminton World Federation (BWF). The youngster sits in eighth place in both the singles and doubles category. In fact in doubles, she is highest ranked Indian in junior women’s. Considering that Treesa comes from a region with no infrastructure for badminton, it definitely is not a mean feat. Finding a partner to play with was a challenge in itself. “It really is incredible to find myself in the top ten in the world. It’s been a long journey full of hard work and struggle.
When I started out, hardly anyone played the sport back in my village. When my father started encouraging me and my sister to play badminton, a lot of people questioned him. Many suggested that it was of no use and that no one from our region would make a career out of it. But my father didn’t pay heed to any of it and kept training us and offered his full support,” said Treesa.
Today, besides breaking into the top ten in world rankings, she is training at the Pullela Gopichand Academy under him and is also part of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (development group), which underlines her potential. The year 2019 was a breakout year of sorts for her as she won multiple titles. Most notably, she won bronze in the women’s doubles at the U-19 International Junior Grand Pix held in Pune and also finished third in women’s U-19 doubles at the Yonex German Junior Cup. She also won a series of national titles with the majority of them coming in doubles.
“I’m concentrating more on doubles right now in terms of career goals and the aim is to try and qualify for the next Olympics in 2024. Even though I have a scholarship from the Sports Ministry, there are still a lot of financial difficulties. My father had to quit his job to help with my career because he couldn’t concentrate on both. But the fact that we’ve come this far gives us confidence. I’m very thankful to my parents and my family,” Treesa said.
Her father Jolly was working as a physical education teacher at the St Joseph’s Higher Secondary School and used to take volleyball classes at their residence. Jolly couldn’t have foreseen then that Treesa would be one of top badminton players in the country. “She started playing at home with the net that would set up to train my students in volleyball. There weren’t any badminton courts in our region at that time. But she showed her potential by winning medals and I was convinced of her talent. Things are a lot different now and we have a few badminton courts that have come up as the sport is starting to grow,” said Jolly.