While most kids of his age were enjoying the holiday season with their families, 12-year-old Rohan Arya Gondi was busy winning the US Junior Squash Open championship for boys in the under-13 category, held in Boston, US. The city lad was also the runners-up at the Canada Junior Open championship held between December 8 and 11.
Although squash is not a popular game in India, this young champion picked up the racquet for the first time when he was only four years old. “My parents asked me what sport I wanted to play when I was four, and I chose squash. There is no particular reason behind it,” shares Rohan, adding that he is still being trained by his father.
“We started playing at the same time and he has coached me since then. I haven’t found any difference between my technique and that of my other friends who play under the guidance of professional squash trainers,” he says.
Rohan who started participating in international competitions at the age of seven, has won medals in many tournaments including Hong Kong Junior Squash Open, Malaysian Junior Squash Open, Singapore Junior Squash Open and Qatar Junior Squash Open. However, the US Open was particularly difficult for him.
Asked why, and Rohan says, “This was my first trip to the US and I was jet-lagged. I also had to travel by road to reach my destination. So, I was tired and it took me two-three days to completely come out of it. Another issue that I faced was the weather. It was my first winter tournament, so I had to deal with the cold too.”
The US Junior Open Squash Championship is the largest individual junior squash. This year the event saw around 41 countries participating in the championship.
Rohan shares that the one match he found difficult was with Pakistani player Humam Ahmed. “He was bigger than me and had good technique. Also, the match went on for nearly an hour, which tired me out. It was very close, but, I was focussed throughout and won,” he says. Rohan won that match 11-4, 10-12, 12-10, 10-12, 11-9.
The youngster who studies in Oakridge International School, has a tight daily schedule. He starts his day at five in the morning, and after a tough physical exercise session goes to the school. Once he is back, Rohan dedicates at least four-five hours a day practising squash. Talking about how he manages his studies and squash, Rohan says, “I concentrate on my studies when I am in school. Also, I study at home for one to one-and-a-half hour every day. So, that helps me. I feel I am smart (laughs).”
If you think that after winning so many championships, this young boy would end up becoming a professional squash player when he grows up, perish the thought! “I haven’t decided as yet. I love playing squash, but I am not sure if I want to play for a living. I find mathematics easy, and am also fond of science. Maybe I will pursue something in those fields,” Rohan concludes....