Akanksha blazes her way to Iran junior open squash title

Dempo Goodwill Ambassador Akanksha Salunkhe proved her mettle in foreign land as she lived up to her sponsor’s expectations by blazing her way to glory and lifting the Iran Junior Open Squash tournament, Thursday. This was her maiden victory in international circuit.

Akanksha participated in the Iran Junior Open 2012, an Asian Junior Super Series event categorised as a ‘Silver Event’, which was held at the Enghelab Sports Complex in Tehran, Iran from Sept 17-20.

On Thursday, the Goan squash prodigy won the finals 3-0 against Kimiya Mohammed from Kuwait. In fact, it was Akanksha’s maiden participation in an Iranian tournament and she camp trumps on her first attempt.

That apart, the triumph in Iran Junior Open also happens to be Akanksha’s maiden victory in the international circuit. Prior to Thursday’s title-winning feat, the Dempo Ambassador had finished runners-up in Scotland and third in Belgium and Penang, Malaysia.

In the Tehran event, Akanksha had played the first round with Kimiya Farah from Kuwait, winning 3-0 (11-1, 11-0, 11-1). She then played the 2nd round with Nurihna from Muscat also winning 3-0 (11-3, 11-2, 11-1).

The quarter-finals were played against Mubeena from Kish Island, Iran where the Goan won 3-0 (11-5, 11-4,11-1). In the semi-finals, Akanksha defeated Kazol Sharafu from Iran and won 3-0 (11-6, 11-4, 11-9) thus continuing her fairytale even in the finals.

Having entered the higher category of Girls U-15 this January, this was Akanksha’s first year in the said category. She would continue to play in the same category up to end of January 2014. Thus, she has ample chance to do well in most of the tournaments.

Akanksha is now scheduled to participate in the Karnataka Open Squash Tournament from Sept 28-30. Thereafter, she would prepare to play in the Junior Nationals to be held in the CCI Club, Mumbai from Oct 28 to Nov 4. Then she would have two months to work hard and be ready for the finest Junior Squash Tournament of the British Junior Open in Sheffield, the United Kingdom. Last year she had stood 7th in the tournament in the U-13 category.

Akanksha’s proud coach, Rehman Saiyed has his hands full with rigorous schedule for fitness, training and game practice for days ahead with no time to rest on the laurels achieved.

With continued support from the House of Dempo, Akanksha has a clear path chalked out for her in the field of this emerging sport of squash. She has been able to cope fairly well with the rigorous training schedule as well as her academic pursuits in Class IX.

Unflinching support from the Navy by allowing her to practice at the Naval Officer’s Institute and by the Naval Children’s School to be allowed to remain absent and attend these tournaments has made it possible for Akanksha to pursue the sport with dedication and focus. There is no doubt that she has been realising her dream and striving for excellence. [TOI]