These women have already made an indelible mark in their sports, and are on their way to achieving something bigger. As we celebrate Indian women in sports, we bring to you those who are pegged to be the next big ones.
Growing up, Anahat Singh watched her sister Amira, a top-level junior player, play squash, and developed a keen interest in the sport; she used to travel with her to tournaments. Soon, Anahat was also playing – at just eight years old! “My family always supported us and encouraged us to try and excel at whatever we enjoyed,” quips the 13-year-old student of The British School, New Delhi. “For me, it was sports – all types of games! I ended up loving squash after playing badminton for a few years and lots of other games at school,” she says.
Despite being in the national capital, getting access to squash courts was initially difficult for the teenager while her family navigated the rules and regulations for access and bore the exorbitant fees. She took on the sport on a day-to-day basis once her parents and coach figured out the logistics.
“All parents should encourage their daughters to follow their dream, be it in sports or anything else, in addition to academics”
Happily, it was not for nothing, since the teen prodigy went on to win laurels for the country. In a short span after she started to play, she ranked no. 1 in the country in the Under-11 category. She went on to become Asia’s no. 1 and maintained that position in the Under-11 category for two years before moving to the Under-13 category. She has to her credit 40 national-circuit titles and six international titles, including a gold at the prestigious British Junior Open in 2019.
The promising teenager who is currently the no. 1 in India, Asia and Europe in the girls Under-13 category and no. 4 in the Under-15 category is now looking forward to playing professionally soon after she turns 15. She will then be able to compete at the tournaments hosted by the Professional Squash Association. She is well aware of the hard work and practice it will take, even excited about it, as she gears up to represent India at the Commonwealth Games to be held in Birmingham this month. She is the youngest player to qualify for the games alongside Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinnapa.
Anahat believes that playing a sport, especially one that you really enjoy, is a lot of fun and helps you develop the confidence that comes from playing with people from different states and countries. “I get to compete and interact with girls from across India and the world and see so many new places. I think you can both study and play, so all parents should encourage their daughters to follow their dream – be it in sports or anything else, in addition to academics,” she signs off.
Also read: They’ve Got Game: Taekwondo Athlete Kashish Malik