None can quash his squash | Sunday Observer

None can quash his squash

30 July, 2023
A spirited battle: Nevindu Lakman versus Australia's Connor Hayes, a 5-setter clash
A spirited battle: Nevindu Lakman versus Australia's Connor Hayes, a 5-setter clash

Nevindu Lakman returns from the shadows after a 14-year lay-off with nothing lost in his quest for more laurels :

In a historic moment for Sri Lanka, Nevindu Lakman, a young and talented squash player made his debut in the prestigious WSF World Junior Squash Championship after a lapse of 14 years.

Among 245 entries from around the world, Nevindu impressed with his remarkable skills and determination, ending the tournament as the number 72 ranked player.

The WSF World Junior Squash Championship's individual tournament concluded at the Melbourne Sports Centre in Australia on July 21, leaving behind a trail of inspiring performances and unforgettable moments.

For Sri Lanka, Nevindu's achievement marked a significant milestone, as it was the first time in over a decade that the country was represented in this elite junior squash championship.

The journey to this achievement was not an easy one for Nevindu. The Sri Lankan squash scene had seen a few participants in the World Junior Squash Championships in the past. The first representation came in 2000 when Navin Samarasinghe took part in the championship held in Milan, Italy. In 2009, a team comprising Gihan Suwaris, Binura Jayasuriya, Sharya Guruge, Nadindhi Udangawa, and Damindi Dudangawa also participated in the championship held in India.

However, Nevindu's performance was exceptional as he became the first-ever Sri Lankan squash player to be ranked third in the history of the junior Under-19 segment. Prior to him, Mihilia Methsarani held the top-ranking position among the junior Sri Lankan players a few years ago.

Hailing from DS Senanayake College, Nevindu's passion for squash was evident from a very young age. He started his journey in Grade One in 2010 by helping his brother during practice sessions at school, picking up balls for his coach. Despite squash not being highly popular in Sri Lanka, Nevindu's interest was piqued during nursery when he accompanied his mother to pick up his elder brother, leading him to join the squash team at DS.

His competitive spirit began to shine early on and he participated in his first tournament in 2012, the Under-9 category, at the age of six. He was placed fourth in that tournament and from there, his journey of excellence began. Nevindu continuously dominated in various age categories, becoming the champion in U-11, U-13, U-15, U-17 and U-19 in every junior national championship.

Before his debut in the WSF World Junior Squash Championship, Nevindu became a double champion in the last Prima Under-19 Championships and Open Championship, winning both titles. It was a significant achievement as it had been 14 years since a Sri Lankan player participated in such a high-caliber international tournament.

Nevindu's excitement was noticeable as he expressed his thoughts about participating in the World Junior Championship. "It was my first time playing outside of Asia and I was thrilled to compete against some of the world's best players. The experience was invaluable and I got to witness different game styles and play against top players from various countries," he said.

The championship provided Nevindu with a tremendous learning opportunity and exposure to the international squash circuit. He met new friends, coaches and sports contacts, making it a stepping stone for his future sporting career.

However, not everything went smoothly for Nevindu during the tournament. In a crucial first-round match, a disputed line-call at 8-all in the decisive fifth set went against him, resulting in a loss against Canadian player Youssef Sarhan by 3-2. Despite the setback, Nevindu showcased resilience and spirit which earned him admiration from spectators and fellow players.

Speaking about his financial struggles, Nevindu mentioned how the economic crisis had impacted his ability to participate in the last World Junior Tournament in France. Nonetheless, he remained determined to achieve his goals and hoped to play professional squash in the world after turning 19 while aiming to become a top-ranked player globally.

During the concluded World Junior Squash Championships, Nevindu also achieved a notable 3-0 victory against Hong Kong's number one player TSE Jat, whom he had previously lost to in an Open Tournament held in Singapore last December. Such successes boosted his confidence for the upcoming Asian Championships to be held from August 16 to 20 in Dalian, China.

Throughout the tournament in Australia, Nevindu was supported by the Black & Gold Society of Melbourne, a group of DS Senanayake College Old boys residing in Melbourne who provided him with accommodation and food. The Melbourne Sri Lankan community also showed immense support and former federation members who reside in Melbourne visited and cheered him on during his matches.

For Nevindu, squash has been a life-changing experience. He attributes everything he has gained, from touring foreign countries to building his character, to the sport. With dreams of winning the Asian Championships and eventually making his mark in the professional squash world, Nevindu Lakman is poised to become one of Sri Lanka's shining stars in the realm of squash.