Following her dad and grandma’s advice to learn squash seems to have changed Anaka Alankamony’s life, placing her on the path to titles and fame. Meet the recently-crowned Asian junior champion
It is amazing how sometimes the small turns that life takes lead to defining moments later. Ace squash player and freshly-crowned Asian junior champion Anaka Alankamony bears testimony to this. Shy and introverted through most of her childhood, Anaka today is confidence personified and for this she is indebted to her father, who encouraged her to pursue sports, and her grandmother whose firm advice — “take to indoor sports” — placed her life on a path that’s turning out to be a dream.
“As a child, my interest was not in dolls but playing with a racquet and ball. My father was keen on my pursuing sports for he believed it taught an individual to face success and adversity with equanimity, preparing one for real-life situations. He thought tennis was the best sport and I became a trainee at the TTT, Nandanam,” says Anaka about her beginnings. But little did she realise that her grandmother had other ideas. “She saw me play in a tournament and before long told me I should be playing an indoor and not an outdoor sport,” says Anaka.
Whatever the reason for such ‘advice’, it proved path-breaking for Anaka. Squash was her next choice and the rest, as they say, is history. In the nine years Anaka spent at the Indian Squash Academy, she proved to be a brilliant trainee, a coach’s delight.
Says national coach Cyrus Poncha: “We found her extremely willing to work hard. She was a quick learner, dedicated and disciplined.”
Well-known Malaysian coach, SRFI consultant and the man behind all the structured training plans in the Academy Maj. S. Maniam endorses this. “She was someone who picked up the basics faster than others. If she continues to progress in this fashion, she could turn out to be one of the best players the country has ever produced.”
Winning the Asian U-15 title at age 13 was her first big step in the International circuit. It was followed last year with success in the Asian U-19 when she was just 16, which she repeated this time in Iran. Anaka has one more year as a junior and that gives her a chance of completing a hat trick by winning her third consecutive U-19 title in the Asian junior championship, something no Indian has achieved.
World of possibilities
A first-year student of SSN Engineering College, Anaka believes squash guides her destiny. A bright student (she averaged over 85 per cent in her school leaving exam), squash opened up possibilities for her in academics too. Besides engineering, she secured a medical seat as well under the sports quota. “I had the choice of joining Kilpauk Medical College,” she says with pride but hastens to add, “But I realised that pursuing squash and medical studies would be far too demanding. However, when it came to engineering, thanks to the SSN College authorities, she was assured her sporting career would not lag behind. Having to travel four hours daily to and from college would have curtailed her training at the ISA, something, she reckoned, she could ill afford. “But my lecturers have given me the freedom to attend classes at my convenience and they also arrange special classes for me. I am very grateful to them,” says the gritty girl, who despite the hardships has not let her academic performance suffer.
Anaka, who will soon turn 18, has a world of possibilities ahead of her in squash.