'Playing for India highlight of my career'

The World No. 20 spoke about being a sportsperson in India, the value of Sportstar magazine in her life and career, and more, in a chat on the sidelines of the launch of SportstarLive, the digital version of Sportstar, at the Madras Cricket Club in Chennai.

Joshna Chinappa participates in a panel discussion at the launch of sportstarlive.com.   -  R.Ragu

The curtain raiser of the much-awaited Sportstar Digital — SportstarLive — witnessed sports personalities from all walks of life adorn the evening at the Madras Cricket Club on Sunday evening. Cricketers to Olympics gold medallists to the modern day sports personalities, all and sundry discussed ‘the challenges of being a professional sportsperson in India’.

Indian squash sensation, Joshna Chinappa, spoke about the importance of the magazine in her life. “I have been reading Sportstar since probably I was eight-year-old. It used to be the magazine in my house. I always looked forward to the poster which would come with it actually. They have been very supportive of my career as well. Sportstar has always featured me, so our relationship goes way back.”

Speaking about the best and worst thing about being a sportsperson in India, Joshna said, “People truly recognise your achievements. I meet players from other countries and then I tell them about the recognition and love I get in the country and they cannot believe it because they may be world champions, but nobody really knows who they are which is kind of sad in the way that they are not recognised as much as they should be. So being from Indian is honestly one of the best thing.”

“The worst thing is when you make comments or say something, you can always be misquoted, you can really get a lot of flak for it. You can come across as unsportsmanlike or complaining too much or whining too much, even though all you want to say is your opinion or how you feel about the situation of sports in the country.”

Chinappa considers herself lucky to have the access to groom herself at a big club and hopes that kids in future will have more access than before.

“I started at this club (Madras Cricket Club). I was fortunate that my parents came from a certain economic background to be able to afford a club like this and that is how I started. Now we have the academy that is there in Chennai which has a lot of kids from all sections of society who are playing, who are good, who are working really hard and I hope they have more public courts. The sports have grown a lot in Chennai and around the country as well. I would like to see lot more public courts for all kinds of people to have access to.”

Joshna’s aim going forward is to enjoy the game, which will in return help her rise up the ladder in the world rankings.

“Right now I am back in the top 20 in the world, which was my highest in the year back. The only way is to work your way up but honestly not trying to focus too much on the ranking. I am focusing on playing good squash, getting fitter, getting stronger. Making sure I am injury-free and just really enjoying the game because if I continue to do that, my ranking will automatically go up.”

Chinappa had a major knee injury while playing the Hamptons Open in 2012. It was during the semifinal match and the injury kept her away from the game for almost seven months.

“I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). I had to start from scratch. I moved to Mumbai, away from home. I wanted a break and start fresh. I did my rehab with Ahmed Yousuf, who is responsible for me playing today. I was fortunate that Ritwick (Bhattacharya) let me stay in his house, with his wife and gave me a very comfortable life there. He was like a mentor and then when I started playing again, I got on court with him first. He started working with me and I did very well after that. So, he plays a huge role. He taught me again from scratch, he is very encouraging and supportive. The seven months we spent, he made believe in things which I did not see at that point of time. He believed for me when I could not believe in it. He was a very good support system.”

Speaking about what the game has given her, Joshna said, “Squash players play the sport because they love the sport; they actually make no money out of it. The earning, whatever little I earn, that we make goes right back into the game. I play it because I love it, I love playing for India. I only took up pro so that I could play for India, that has been my goal since I was 10-year-old. As an athlete, playing for India has been the highlight of my career and that is what makes me happy.”

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