Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.


“If I've given my best, I think about my performance rather than the result” - says National Squash Champion, Velavan Senthilkumar

From balancing his family garment business to dominating the British Junior Open and being the National Champion, learn about squash star Velavan Senthilkumar’s inspiring journey

“If Ive given my best, I think about my performance rather than the result” - says National Squash Champion, Velavan Senthilkumar

Credit (Twitter)


Sukanya Adhikary

Updated: 27 March 2024 9:12 AM GMT

Velavan Senthilkumar, a 25-year-old rising star in squash, who with his consistent passion for the sport and discipline has won several titles representing India. Velavan started his athletic journey as a tennis player at the tender age of 6. Few years later, he joined squash when he was in sixth grade.

Velavan belongs to a business family, who owns a garment factory. Choosing squash as a full time career was not an easy decision, because of his keenness towards the fashion industry and textile. His father often keeps him updated about their business, and he hopes to be a part of it after retirement.

Velavan’s introduction to squash was from one of his neighbors in Chennai, Karan Rathore, who also played the game. Moreover, occasional rains would stop him from going to Tennis training and his parents wanted him to learn a sport, hence Velavan started to play squash initially. But his love for squash grew, when he found squash matches to be quicker, more interesting and exciting compared to Tennis.

“I felt like squash is more interesting in terms of different angles. We have all the angles we can play in the sport.” Velavan said while talking about his squash experience as a full time player to The Bridge.

Velavan's academic journey began at Don Bosco Egmore in Chennai, where he went through early morning training sessions with rigorous school schedules, finally ending the day again with another training session. Starting squash at a young age in the sixth standard, Velavan dedicated himself to mastering the sport while excelling academically as well. Despite the challenges of managing time between training, school, and later university, Velavan remained focused on his goals.

Transitioning from statistics to psychology during his undergraduate years at Columbia University in New York, Velavan strategically aligned his academic pursuits with his squash career, so that he would get more time to focus on his games, and also balance academics as required.

“A balance between academics and squash was very new and tough for me because I had to play for the university and there were different time slots where I could train. Managing academics and squash was pretty hard during university,” Velavan reminisced.

Velavan's career in squash took a turn after joining the HCL Squash Podium Program.

“2022 was when I finished university and returned to India. It was during the Commonwealth Games and PSA events organized by HCL that I was introduced to their podium program. The experiences acquired during training camps for the Commonwealth games with top-tier international talents like Sebastian Bonmalais and Gregory Gaultier were priceless. Moreover, the PSA events organized by HCL helped players like me in the juniors to come up in the ranks,” reflects Velavan.

HCL has also helped players stay on track during COVID 19 pandemic. Right after the pandemic, HCL arranged the domestic PSA tournament.

“I won in 2021 in Chennai and in Delhi. That really helped me grow up in the ranks and play much bigger events. So I think HCL was a huge help for sure,” Velavan said.

Velavan has been a part of the Barcelona Squash Academy since January 2023. The training is mainly focused on the fitness of the athlete, helping the athletes play with the higher ranked players in the world, match their proficiency with them, and get better.

“I feel like this is what my game needed back then in my squash career. And I think that's what really helped me,” Velavan mentions.

Reflecting on his achievements, Velavan cherishes milestones like winning the British Junior Open in 2017 and the National Championship in the men’s category in 2023.

“The British Junior Open is a proud moment for me because for the first time we had three Indians finish top three ever. So that was a really proud moment for the entire Indian squash academy too, because all three of us were from Chennai,” Velavan says.

The setback subject is sure to follow after the conversation on his glorious achievements. Velavan also acknowledged the inevitable challenges encountered along the way.

“I might have some self doubt, but that’s when my support system, my family, my coaches and my entire team comes into play. If I've given my best, be it a win or a loss, I think about my performance rather than the result," he added, pointing out his views on coping up with a lost match.

He follows a very strict diet filled with carbs, proteins and fruits, with minimal cheat days, which usually includes having some of his favourite south Indian dishes when he is back home in Chennai. Since squash is a physically and mentally straining sport, following a proper diet is necessary for athletes to stay focused.

“Squash is a popular sport in the former country. Along with their physical health, mental health is also given the same attention. During my time in university, we had a sports psychologist working with us at the university for athletes. But I guess it's the same for the professional athletes as well,” Velavan compares the sporting culture between USA and India.

However, compared to the last 5 years, squash has gained a lot of popularity after the Asian Games and the inclusion of sport in the olympics for 2028.

“There are more people taking up the sport, which is very good for squash in India. Yet squash in India has so much scope of improvement,” he admits.

However, with a promising future ahead of him, Velavan hopes to become the highest-ranked Indian player and win gold at the Asian and Commonwealth Games. His ambitions go beyond the court as well, intending to contribute to Indian squash's development through coaching and other initiatives.

Next Story