Arjuna Award has come at the right time: Chinappa

Posted on September 13, 2013

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In 2011, a knee injury almost derailed Joshna Chinappa’s career. But the 26-year-old national squash champion made a comeback within eight months with a stronger resolve. Now, with the Arjuna Award as a feather in the cap, the Chennai girl about her injury and her aim of winning medals at next year’s Commonwealth and Asian Games. Excerpts:

Do you feel the Arjuna award has come a bit late?
I never paid much attention whether I was getting the award or not getting the award. And when it has come, it has come. I have never really dwelled upon it too much.

This phase can also be described as your second innings. How does the award translate for you?
I am very honoured. It encourages me to work harder to bring laurels to the country. The award has come at the right time, getting it after being out with an injury and when I am making my comeback.

Joshna Chinappa

Joshna Chinappa

How did you go about staying in shape during the injury break?
When I was in rehab, I couldn’t even play. But I worked with a really good trainer, Ahmed Yousuf and coach Ritwik Bhattacharya. I had a very good team, who were positive about me getting back on the court as soon as I could and get physically fit.

And the mental adjustment …
It was really hard to see tournaments happening, other players competing and not being a part of it. You miss the whole life of travelling, being on the road. But there were good days when I felt stronger and fitter, and realised I am going to get better and then there would be days of pain when I actually realised that it is going to be harder getting back. I was pretty balanced and realistic about playing again.

Any goals you set during that period….
I wanted to get back in the rankings, I dropped to a low of 72 in the period. My goal was to get back into the top-25 in seven months and achieved it in six months. I went up to 25, my highest, a couple of months ago and now I am 27. I’m looking into breaking into the top-20 this year.

You have become a household name in squash over the years, do you think you have lived up to that billing?
I definitely feel I have done as much as I could. But there is a lot more to do; the injury put me off track. I’m hoping to get back to the mindset I was in before the injury. Hopefully, my best is yet to come.

Are you worried what critics have to say about your  performances?
Honestly, I have never been too worried about the media. My goal is to play my tournaments and do well because no one can do anything if you are successful and winning. I don’t worry about defeats. I am bound to lose matches. I don’t think what anybody has to say bothers me.

You have had disputes with Squash Rackets Federation of India. How did the off court issues hamper you as an
athlete?

I have had my fair share of troubles and struggle. All an athlete wants to do is train properly and go play with a completely free mind as opposed to being worried about who is going to pull them down or where the money is going to come from. It is hard. You need the money to play irrespective of how you train. Squash is not such a big sport when it comes to earning money and any help from the government is always welcome. I have not received the actual amount what is supposed to be allocated to me. I have always got it in bits and pieces. I have borne all my expenses, it would help if I get the support so I can play without worrying about anything. My family has supported me and given me all the encouragement and money to play. Right now I have no issues with anybody, whatever I had in the past has been resolved now.

Looking ahead…
I am really looking for a top-20 finish by this year end and a top-15 ranking would be a bonus. There are a host of tournaments coming up in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Macau and the World Open in November. Right now I am preparing for next year’s Commonwealth and Asian Games, trying to get fitter and stronger. The goal is to win medals in these two events.

This interview, done for Hindustan Times, appeared in the paper’s Mumbai edition on September 1.

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Posted in: Madras, Sports