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In full swing

 

‘Watch the ball’ seems to be the winning mantra of this game but it takes much more to aim high and reach the top of the ladder as a squash player says Mihiliya Methsarani. The youth has taken huge strides in the sport, taking Sri Lanka’s name to the world.

Dubbed as the ‘Squash Queen’ by many Mihiliya now plays for the above 19 category. An old girl of Sirimavo Bandaranaike Vidyalaya, Colombo, Mihiliya was ranked second in the Asian region in the under 19 age category. She was the Junior National Squash Champion for a number of consecutive years. The young squashy has also won three Senior National Titles during the past three years. She holds the record in 2012 and 2013, winning both the junior and senior titles.

Q: Squash is not as popular as badminton or tennis in Sri Lanka.

A: That is true but is it gaining ground now. Schools have begun to take it up as a sport. We are sent for a lot of international events too.

Q: How does squash differ from badminton and tennis?

A: Tennis is an outdoor sport. However, squash shares many similarities with badminton. For example, the swings are quite similar in both sports. Even the footwork is somewhat similar. We use a white ball in a glass court while a black ball is used if you are playing squash in a court with white walls.

Q: Why did you choose to play squash?

A: I took up the sport when I was seven years old. I played badminton when I was in grade two. Later I turned to squash because my coach decided that I would make a better squash player. My parents too encouraged me though they have never forced me into anything. I made my choice in the end and developed a passion for the sport. I was able gain a significant place in squash when I was around 12 years old.

I practice for one and a half hours each day. I also do some fitness training on the ground thrice a week. Mahesh Chandana trained me during my school days. Now Yasmin Zarook is my coach.

Q: What is your first big win?

A: I became runners up in the Novices Squash Competition. Then I took part in open tournaments. I was placed third in the national level for a span. Then I was able to clinch the top place in my age group when I was nine years old.

Q: Recall your first international tournament.

A: I became the runner-up in the under-11 Special Plate in the Milo All Star International Junior Squash Tournament in 2007. I was around 8 years old then.

Q: What should a player possess to excel in squash?

A: The key feature that a player needs to possess is endurance. Speed and movements count a lot as well. You need basically every feature that a good sportsman has to possess if you want to make it to the top in a game like squash. One may look at the sport on the surface and think that it is easy to play squash but believe me, it is a really tough game. You need to be swift-footed and quick in your movements because you need to act as soon as the ball bounces towards you.

A match may take as long as one to one and a half hours. You need to be committed to the game till the end. You need a lot of flexibility to reach the ball too.

Q: Are there any unforgettable moments that you have encountered duringthe game?

A: There are many moments and each and every one of them holds a lot of pride for me. I have loved sports from my childhood. I used to watch the Olympic Games every year as it was being telecast on TV. One of my favourite moments in the event is when the winners receive their medals and listen to their national anthem being played in the background. My dream was to have a similar experience. I fulfilled that dream in 2013 at the Asian Junior Games in Nanging, China, where I won the bronze medal.

I have toured countries like Malaysia, Pakistan, Hong Kong, China, India, Scotland, Kuwait, Jordan etc. I also won two bronze medals at the South Asian Games (SAG) 2016 in India.

Q: Tell us a bit about your family.

A: There are four members in my family. My sister, K A T Sathsarani, is three years elder than me. She is involved in higher studies. My father, K S W Kumarajeewa, is a chief inspector working for the legal division in the police department. My mother, M K Thanapathi, is a housewife.

Q: Apart from squash what are your other passions?

A: I love sports in general and I have played badminton, cricket, football, swimming, and athletics at school. I have even reached the provincial level in athletics. I was the Games Captain at school and I was involved in a lot of societies as well. I was good in drawing too. I did Arts for my A/Ls.

Q: What is your ambition?

A: I do not possess big dreams but I would love to get into the top 20 in the international squash rankings. I am engaged in law studies so I hope to choose a career connected with law.

Q: What is your advice to budding young squash players?

A: Since only a few have taken up the sport here I would like to tell them that we have got a lot of facilities to practice and improve our skills. If you play your cards right you would be able to reach the international level easily through squash. 

 

 

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