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'My ultimate goal and dream is to be ranked No 1'

Last updated on: December 11, 2012 12:58 IST

'My ultimate goal and dream is to be ranked No 1'

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S. Saraswathi

Talk about Indian squash, and Dipika Pallikal is the first name that springs to mind.

And, why not?

The 21-year-old is in prime form this year. The World No 13 put Indian squash firmly on the world map when she reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open and finished runner-up in the Tournament of Champions.

She further proved her credentials as India placed fifth at the WSF Women's World Team Squash Championship, at Nimes, France, in November -- the country's best performance in the competition.

In an exclusive tete-a-tete with S. Saraswathi, Pallikal, who was conferred the Arjuna award earlier this year, talks about coach Sarah Fitz-Gerald's contribution to her rise in the rankings, her favourite cuisine and dream of being World No 1.

Excerpts:

It's been as a great year for you -- the Tournament of Champions, the Australian Open and now the Championship in France. Comment.

I have worked very hard to reach where I am today. I am very grateful for all the success that has come my way this year. Winning the Arjuna award earlier this year was extremely thrilling and exciting. It was indeed a humbling experience to receive such recognition from our nation. I will continue to work hard to make my country proud.

You're currently training under former champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald. How much have her inputs contributed to your success?

Dominating the women's squash circuit in the 90s, Sarah is one of the greatest squash players ever. That is huge support and inspiration to me. We share an extremely comfortable relationship and that makes our training sessions great fun and very satisfying.

Sarah also has to be one of my toughest critics. She is quite a taskmaster and makes sure that I keep my head down and work hard.

Image: Dipika Pallikal


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'I set my goals and play hard to achieve them'

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How and when did you decide to take up squash as a career?

Me being a squash player is a story of coincidences. My best and closest friend to date, Praneetha, would attend a squash summer camp during the school vacations. Those were day-long camps, which meant I would have to spend my summer holidays all alone. At the age of eight, spending even a day without your best friend is the most depressing thought ever!

So, after much begging and pleading with my mother, I ended up following Praneetha to the squash court; the rest, as you know, is history!

What is your biggest accomplishment yet?

I cherish each and every one of my victories. Being the first Indian squash player to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Squash Open in August this year was definitely a high point of my life. I am also grateful for receiving the Arjuna award this year.

How do you set your goals? What would be your ultimate achievement?

My ultimate goal and dream is to be ranked No 1 in the world. Everything I do -- all my training, coaching, my routine -- are all centred around being No 1. I set all my goals and play hard to achieve this dream someday.

Who has/have been your inspiration in life?

I come from a family of distinguished sportspeople and sports enthusiasts.

My mother captained the Indian women's cricket team and her mother was a state-level athlete too.

My grandfathers were accomplished sportsmen: my paternal grandfather was a Services National high jump champion and maternal grandfather was a seasoned basketball player, who represented three states in the sport.

They are all my inspiration and it is their achievements that motivate me.


Image: Dipika Pallikal


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'I may not get the recognition but it doesn't change my dedication to excellence'

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What is your biggest challenge as a squash player?

My biggest challenge, I guess, is spending so much time away from home. Playing on the international circuit requires me to spend days travelling to different parts of the world, and sometimes that is hard to deal with.

I also have to pay a lot of attention to my health and fitness levels. Squash is a very fast sport and demands high levels of fitness and speed, which means that I have to consciously and conscientiously spend hours dedicating myself to a very vigorous training schedule.

With all your travelling, how much time do you get with your family?

We have not been on a family holiday in ages, but, finally, this year we went to Delhi together for the Arjuna awards. It was so wonderful to have my parents and sisters there. I couldn't have asked for more. They made the day even more special.

Except cricket, most other sports in India are ignored. Comment.

As an athlete, I focus on playing my sport to the best of my abilities and bringing home as many titles and laurels I possibly can.

And while I may not get the recognition that more popular sportspeople get, it does not change my dedication to excellence and affect my passion for the sport.

Image: Dipika Pallikal

Tags: Arjuna , Delhi , India

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'Let your passion motivate you to strive harder and soar higher'

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Do you think your success has made people pick up the squash racket?

My focus is on winning tournaments and making our country proud. I hope that my achievements inspire young athletes to take up squash and bring to light how exciting, fast and fun-filled the sport is, not just to play, but for spectators as well.

What advice would you give younger squash players?

The best advice I could ever give anyone is to follow your heart. There is no feeling more satisfying than doing something you love and are passionate about. Let your passion motivate you to strive harder and soar higher.

Tell us more about Dipika Pallikal, the person. What makes you tick?

I'm a big movie buff. But I am not very picky; I'll watch anything and everything.

I do enjoy my food a lot! I just love the dosas my grandmother makes. I spend many hours at the breakfast table, gorging on dosas when I am back home.

I also love Thai cuisine, and my favorite restaurant is BANN in New York -- a Korean barbecue joint that serves amazing food!

I love the colour pink and I pay special attention to include the colour wherever I can and have all my equipment and apparel in pink. 

When it comes to clothes I must admit I am a shopaholic and cannot seem to stop myself from buying things off a rack when I enter a store. High street brands like Zara, H&M and Top Shop are among some of my favourites!

When it comes to Indian wear, I like to stick to Manish Malhotra's designs; I love the colours he uses and his clothes have the best cuts and fits.

Image: Dipika Pallikal


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