Chennai boy Velavan Senthilkumar has makes it to Columbia University riding on squash success. The 18-years-old said that cricket is not the only sport in India that throws up career opportunities.
The British Junior Open squash champion is on his way to Columbia University in August to continue a degree in economics, and it’s all because of his brilliance in the sport.
When Velavan asked by media TOI, a student of Don Bosco said that “I was approached by the assistant squash coach at Columbia when I was playing the British Open. At Columbia, I am going to be playing university squash. The training schedule is similar to the one in Chennai, but the infrastructure is way better.”
Chennai boy said that here were other offers from Ivy League universities like Princeton, Yale, and Harvard. However, the chanced that Columbia presented for squash prepared him to go it. “There are a lot more opportunities outside the university too and I want to make the most of them.”
Around Velavan’s decision moving to Columbia many voices of skepticism were raised. A few at the Indian squash academy in Chennai, where Velavan trains, feel squash may take a backseat one he shifts to Columbia. However, he is confident that it will not be so. He said, “Squash is going to be my priority, academics is only secondary.”
Velavan’s coach Cyrus Poncha believes that the teenager can take places in Squash and expect that he will continue working on his game in Columbia. The coach said, “Hopefully Velavan will continue making the progress that has taken him this far.”
According to Velavan’s father Senthilkumar, due to lack of a system in India where his son could get a degree without compromising on squash forced them to take the decision.
Senthilkumar, who runs a textile factory, said that “We don’t have any colleges or universities here where he can get a good education while playing squash. In the US, it is much better. There is a good set-up. Apart from college, there are also a lot of clubs where he can go and train.”
His coach said that now Velavan is savoring his British Open title win. After Anil Nair and recent Saurav Ghosal, he is only the third Indian boy to do so. “It’s a fabulous victory. For any Indian to win the junior British Open requires something special. Saurav did it in 2004. At the time, he was training here at the Academy. Now, for Vela to do it, just makes it that much more special. It’s a big moment for the Academy too, and we’re proud.”