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Squash

Anahat, Abhay, Velavan included in TOPS for 2028 Los Angeles Olympics

The three players have been inducted into the Developmental Group.

Anahat, Abhay, Velavan included in TOPS for 2028 Los Angeles Olympics
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Anahat Singh (left) and Abhay Singh (right) during an event. (FILE PHOTOl: SAI Media)

By

The Bridge Desk

Updated: 14 May 2024 2:51 PM GMT

With a focus on the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, Sports Authority of India's (SAI) Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) inducted emerging Indian squash players Anahat Singh, Abhay Singh and Velavan Senthilkumar into the Developmental Group of the scheme.

Inducted in the 2028 Olympics programme in October last at the 141st IOC Congress in Mumbai, squash has been going through a transition in India. With the renowned names of the sport either at the fag end of their career or have retired, the Indian squash fraternity has been witnessing the emergence of a new batch of talented players.

Undoubtedly the face of Indian squas, Saurav Ghosal announced retirement earlier this year, while Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa are not getting any younger. In this context, the baton of Indian squash will be carried by the three promising players: Anahat, Abhay and Velavan.

'Honoured': Players

At 16, Anahat is already a national champion, with over 46 titles in the national circuit so far. On the international front as well, she has started making waves as the current Asian U17 champion and winner of 2 PSA World Tour titles. She also has two Asian Games medals under her belt.

“I am really honoured SAI and SRFI considered me to be added to TOPS and I believe it will be a big support for me in improving my game and getting ready for international competition. I am sure when other Indian squash players hear about this, they will be encouraged them pick up Squash professionally as they will know the government is supporting them if they perform well and represent India.” Anahat said.

She further said that with squash now being part of the Olympics, more junior players have started coming forward and taking part in prominent events.

“I am certain that more players, both in India and abroad, will now take up Squash. In fact, I feel more junior players have already started coming forward for prominent international tournaments, in the buildup to its (squash’s) inclusion into the LA Olympics. The numbers have increased, and the competition is now huge. Every country is now putting in a lot of effort, and I am so happy that event India is making effort in that direction. Everyone is working hard on getting that shot at that 1st Olympic Medal (in Squash) at LA 2028," added Anahat.

Among the men, Abhay, 25, is the current National Games gold medallist and National Championship Silver medalist. He has won 9 PSA World Tour Titles and was part of the Indian Men’s team that won the Asian Games Gold in Hangzhou in 2023.

When asked what he felt about being one of the first few players to be inducted into TOPS, he said "I’m very honoured to be inducted into TOPS, I’ve been working hard to climb up the PSA rankings and have been funding all my expenses to travel abroad and train under some of the best coaches. I’m happy that TOPS will now take care of me, and I really hope we keep producing results on the world tour especially the 2026 Asian Games and the again the Olympics."

When asked if squash being part of the Olympics will help get more people interested in the game, Abhay added, "I hope so, squash needs more eyes and more players and it’s the responsibility of senior players like me to promote the sport with integrity. Squash obviously became very popular after our Asian Games win in China and it is certainly growing having looked at the junior participants every year in the SRFI Events, it’s an exciting time for Indian squash."

Velavan Senthilkumar is currently ranked 55th in the world.

Like Anahat and Abhay, Velavan has had a meteoric rise on the international circuit in the past year and a half.

He started the year 2023 just outside the top 200 in the PSA World Tour rankings and has now achieved a career-high rank of 55. He won 8 PSA World Tour Titles and was runner-up at the Asian Senior Championship 2023.

With the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games just two years away, Velavan hopes to become the highest-ranked Indian player at the Games and win prestigious Gold at both events.

Squash federation hails the move

Hailing the decision of TOPS, the Squash Racquets Federation of India (SRFI) Secretary General Cyrus Poncha said, "The inclusion of squash in the TOPS programme marks a pivotal moment for the sport in India. Beyond immediate benefits like increased participation and enhanced training opportunities, this recognition signifies a broader endorsement of squash as a significant sporting discipline within the country."

"Including squash in TOPS opens doors to international exposure and collaboration, fostering exchange programs and partnerships with leading squash nations. This is bound to enhance the overall standard of squash in India," added Poncha.

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