On eve of Arjuna award ceremony, Joshna Chinappa wants boost for squash
Joshna Chinappa will receive the Arjuna award today, a recognition that has come after a long wait for the Chennai squash player.
The 25-year-old became the first Indian girl to win the prestigious British Junior under-19 title in 2003 and followed it up with a gold at the South Asian Federation Games gold in 2004.
Chinappa, currently ranked 27 in the world, spoke to MiD DAY on what the Arjuna award means to her and other aspects of the sport.
What does the Arjuna award mean to you?
It means a lot to me. This is one of my biggest achievements. I have been recognised by the government and the feeling is special.
With you and Deepika Pallikal being the only two faces in Indian squash, what will it take for more of your kind to emerge?
Hopefully, there will be more kids taking up squash after us and pursuing it as a career. But for that, there has to be better structure to develop squash and reach out to all sections of people in different parts of the country. There is a need for good coaches, facilities, conducting tournaments all over the country and helping kids financially to play international as well as national tournaments.
How has the progress of you and Deepika changed the popularity of the sport in the past few years?
I think more people are aware of squash because of what Saurav Ghosal, Deepika Pallikal, Siddharth Suchde, Harinder Sandhu and myself have been doing on the international circuit. There have been some international events that have helped in bringing more recognition to the sport. Squash has grown a lot in Chennai, but needs to develop more in other parts of the country.
What needs to be done to give the sport a boost? It is restricted to cities and has not entered rural areas…
Squash is still a club-level sport in many cities and not everyone can afford a membership to play. We need to develop courts that are easily accessible at the grassroots level. Courts have to be built with the help of the central and state governments along with the federation. Also, a program to develop squash in particular areas. Hopefully, with a good plan, corporates will come on board to support squash and then we can see more kids
taking up the sport.
Since squash has been short-listed now for the Olympics, how difficult will it be for the federation to convince the International Olympic Committee for the final spot?
Squash being short-listed is amazing and hopefully, we can make it to the Olympics as it deserves to. But we are competing with wrestling which has a better chance of getting back in. I’m just hoping for the best.