‘FRUSTRATING’. Dipika Pallikal shed light on how it felt when squash was omitted from the list of additional sports that will be included for Paris Olympics 2024. Dipika’s reaction echoes the sentiments of several other big names from the sport.
While squash missed the Olympics bus once again, Paris organisers had said they will include breakdancing along with surfing, climbing and skateboarding for the 2024 Games.
This is not the first time squash has unsuccessfully campaigned for the Olympics as previous bids were rejected for London, Rio and Tokyo Olympics.
Dipika Pallikal, Commonwealth Games champion, said she sees the exclusion as a loss for the Games and not the other way around. Dipika, though, able to see the positive as she believes the Olympic bid brought a lot of constructive changes to the spot.
“FRUSTRATING. I think we all got to a point where all we could do was laugh. There are some ridiculous sports in the Olympics and if those sports deserve to be part of the Olympics then so do we,” Dipika Pallikal told indiatoday.in.
“But I think a lot of good things have happened to our sport because of the bid. It has grown leaps and bounds as a sport. So I think we as a sport have done our work and homework. If the Olympics don’t want to have a sport like squash then it’s their loss.”
Dipika, who has been playing the sport from a very young age, has been one of the icons of the sport in the country along with Joshna Chinappa and Saurav Ghosal. Dipika found success at the highest level of the sport. She won the doubles gold medal at Glasgow Commonwealth Games. 2018 was a landmark year in her decorated career as she achieved success at the Gold Coast Games and returned from the Asian Games with 2 silver medals.
‘Need to re-evaluate the way squash is run in the country’
Despite the success the trio has had in the sport at the international level, Dipika believes re-evaluation is needed when it comes to the way the sport is run in the country. Hiring international coaches is one of the many things the national squash federation needs to do, according to the decorated athlete.
Following the departure of Egyptian coach Achraf Karargui after the CWG in 2018, the national squash federation have been hiring event-based coaches and the squash stars have been left without a full-time coach.
Dipika believes she along with Chinnapa and Ghosal have been lucky enough to be able to train overseas and get international exposure but to take the sport forward in the country, changes are needed, Dipika said.
“There’s a lot of re-evaluation to do in terms of how the Indian squash is run. We’ve been lucky to get results purely because of personal decisions of moving out of the country and training.. we’ve done it all by ourselves and hence the results have happened.
“The standard of squash in the country has to improve and we need to have a few international coaches in our country to take the sport forward,” Dipika said.
An Olympic slot is certainly going to help the popularity of squash in India, according to the 28-year-old star.
“Definitely. When you play an Olympic sport you automatically get into the elite sports of the country. You get more sponsors, you get more government support and a lot more stuff,” Dipika said.
‘Ready to be back to action’
Dipika took a brief break from the sport after the Asian Games in 2018 and she hasn’t been involved in competitive action since then. However, post the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Dipika feels she will be ready to get back on the circuit.
“I decided to take a break for a year or so post CWG and Asian Games because I felt I was mentally lacking motivation. I wanted to take a seat back and look over a few things before I got back on the court. I feel I’m ready to get back on court now,” Dipika said.
Dipika helps fight against Covid-19
Dipika has been doing her bit in helping the fight against Covid-19. The squash star, who is known for her fitness regime, is part of Adidas #HOMETEAMHERO Challenge – a virtual sporting event for the world’s athletes to unite and help make a difference by dedicating their workouts for good. The campaign aims to raise $1 million towards the World Health Organisation Covid-19 Relief Fund.
“I am very excited to join the great group of global athletes in the largest virtual sporting event in history – The #HomeTeam Heroes Challenge, an ultimate donation relay to give back to our frontline warriors who are working hard to keep us safe.
“It also gives me the motivation to work harder as every active minute I exercise on the adidas training and running app counts toward the mission to raise funds.
“I really believe this is an opportunity for all of us to help make a difference with our workouts. While the world waits, now is the time to keep moving, share positivity and hope. I urge everyone to come forward and help contribute for a noble cause!”