The Rise and Reign of Anahat Singh as an Indian Squash Prodigy
From her golden triumph at the British Open to winning bronze at the Asian Games 2023, this is the journey of Anahat Singh, the rising star in the arena of Indian squash.
Squash has traditionally found its place among the pursuits of the privileged, tethered to financial constraints. However, a transformative narrative is unfolding, led by the collaborative efforts of the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI) and HCL through their Squash Podium Program.
Anahat Singh, a rising prodigy in the circle of squash, symbolizes the sport's changing face in India. Her recent achievements include two bronze medals at the Asian Games 2023 in Hangzhou, China. She also scripted history by becoming the youngest title winner in 23 years at the recently concluded Senior National Squash Championships.
The recent World Cup in Chennai served as a platform for a subtle yet palpable rise in squash's popularity among Indian audiences. With well-known athletes like Saurav Ghosal, Dipika Pallikal, and Joshna Chinappa making their marks on the global stage, Anahat Singh is rapidly emerging as a star in Indian squash.
Her journey included showcasing exceptional talent and securing significant victories at a remarkably young age. From being a PV Sindhu fan to becoming an Asian Games medallist reflects her dedication and the HCL Program's instrumental role in her development.
“HCL and its Squash Podium Program have been crucial for players and me, especially when I represented the country. It is a year-long support that is being given to all the squash players representing India,” said Anahat.
Anahat's initial affinity for badminton, sparked by watching PV Sindhu at the India Open when she was just six, took a turn towards squash at the age of eight. Influenced by her sister Amira, Anahat swiftly rose, attaining India No. 1 in the under-11 and under-13 categories.
Anahat Singh, coming from a sports-centric background, did not find it hard to gain support from her family and friends. As a young athlete, mental toughness has still not bothered her gameplay, as she just aims to enjoy her time on the court.
She finds solace and joy in the early hours, stepping onto the squash court and engaging with different opponents. Her youthful perspective emphasizes the essence of enjoying the sport with a well-balanced competition and genuine love for the sport.
As she eloquently puts it, “Squash has always been my passion. I enjoy playing it. Going to the court in the morning and playing with different people is my ideal start to the day. Since I’m young, I don't take much stress about my performance; rather, I would enjoy playing out there.”
During the tough times of the pandemic, Anahat’s family created a makeshift squash court at home. She didn't let the lockdown keep her away from the game she loves. What's impressive is how she manages to handle her preparation for 10th-grade board exams that are coming her way while still keeping up with her intense squash training.
“In my six years in the game, I've witnessed a significant shift in Indian squash. When I started, a few folks weren’t familiar with the game or its rules. But today, it's a whole different story, and I genuinely believe it's improving daily. Companies like HCL deserve a lot of credit for making a substantial impact. Their support has truly changed the game, bringing more attention and making squash a sport on the rise.”
The HCL Squash Podium Program has been pivotal in Anahat's development, bridging crucial gaps in her journey. By organizing international-level tournaments, bringing in top coaches, and providing financial support, HCL has enabled Anahat to stay competitive globally. The program's consistent efforts have played a significant role in Anahat's growth, ensuring exposure to the highest standards of the sport.
“Each coach has their special element, and it was always necessary for me to look at things from a different perspective to improve my game. Thus, the HCL program has again benefitted me in so many ways,” said Anahat.
Anahat's breakthrough came in 2019 when she clinched the gold medal in the under-11 girls' category at the British Open Squash tournament. Subsequent years saw her bag silver medals at the British and Malaysian Junior Open tournaments in 2020. Anahat's triumph at the US Open 2021, where she became the first Indian woman to secure a title in any age division.
Winning two bronze medals in the women's team and mixed doubles events at the Asian Games 2023 in Hangzhou was a breakthrough in her career. Looking ahead, Anahat aspires to win an Olympic medal, with squash set to be included in the 2028 Games.
Reflecting on her own dietary practices, Anahat is committed to adhering to recommended food plans. However, amidst the rigors of professional athleticism, she playfully confesses that she goes for the bare minimum diet plans to be followed.
“Diet has always been vital and important, as I see how athletes stick to their diet plans at the international level. I also try to do the bare minimum and have the food that is recommended. But on the whole, every day is a cheat day for me, and I can’t stand a day without chocolate”, quipped Anahat.
“We as players don't often get to play regular tournaments with intense competition. HCL bridges the gap by providing regular training sessions with different coaches and subsequent tournaments to keep the players in good touch,” added Anahat.
As a corporate giant, HCL has created the awareness and recognition that squash deserves in the country where other sports have always overshadowed it. The collective efforts of the Squash Rackets Federation of India and HCL from the Squash Podium Program stand as beacons of change in the Indian sporting narrative.
The vision of a more inclusive squash community is gradually materializing, promising a future where the game becomes a shared pursuit, irrespective of socioeconomic background.