Meet Dipika Pallikal - a winner all the way

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CHAMPION: On a winning streak.
CHAMPION: On a winning streak.

Dipika talks of how she manages to make time for school, squash, family and friends in her rather hectic schedule.

Amidst yells of "Yo! Dipika, look this side!" the 15-year-old chief guest Dipika R. Pallikal, winner of the title in the girls' under-15 section in the Asian junior squash championship in Singapore, walked into the auditorium acknowledging the cheers that she is now getting used to. For this young player, squash isn't just a game. Beyond the glamour and the wide smiles of victory lies a training schedule that at times can border on the punishing. "I train nearly six hours a day (three in the morning and three in the evening with school in between that) at FitnessOne and my skill training (racquet movement, footwork) happens at the ICL-TNSRA Academy under Cyrus Poncha," she says. The Asian junior squash championship was quite an experience. "Being India's first girl to do so made it even bigger," she says. But it wasn't all fun and games. The pressure was enormous and dealing with that successfully was quite a challenge. "We were a team of 16 players, boys and girls. The boys couldn't win and that was sheer bad luck. I was the only one left to win a title for my country," says this standard 10 student of Lady Andal school.

School and friends

A supportive school (her principal knows her schedule well) and ever-ready-to-help friends make balancing studies and her demanding sport a lot easier.There is no time to develop hobbies and she doesn't read. Almost all her free time is meant for hanging out with friends. "I am just 15, you know," she grins. When friends are busy, it is family she turns to. Just back from Egypt (where she stayed opposite the pyramids) where she had a two-week stint with Coach Amir Wagih, the Egyptian National Coach, she headed straight for Kolkata where she played the Under 19 category and won it with ease in less than 25 minutes. Nicole David, winner of the world junior title at 14, is her most enduring icon. Promoting squash is another of her passions. She believes, "We must do our best to promote squash in India and make it as popular as tennis and cricket."P.P.



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