Saurav Ghosal experienced both jubilation and despair during his stay at Incheon for the Asian Games. The 28-year-old had gone agonizingly close to winning the Gold in men’s singles squash but that one final point never came.
But Ghosal soon got a chance for redemption as he could lead the men’s team to a historic first ever gold medal at the Asiad. Back home in Kolkata, the World No. 17 shared memories of his emotional rollercoaster with Sports Rediscovered. Here are the excerpts –
SR: How special was it to win India’s first ever squash gold medal at the Asian Games?
Ghosal: It was the biggest moment of my squash career. I have always had a dream since I was a young boy to win a team championship for India and to be able to win it at the Asian Games, it just can’t get any bigger. I think it was unbelievable. We have had a lot of heartbreak in the last 6-8 years in the team events. We had come very close but we hadn’t kind of crossed the line. And for it to finally come together and happen at the Asian Games was unbelievable. In that one very moment when we won, there was so much relief and happiness. All the work that you had put in, all the losses that you have had, everything kind of becomes worth it, at that point of time.
SR: You were so close to winning the singles final but unfortunately it didn’t go your way. What really went wrong?
Ghosal: I don’t think anything went wrong from my end. I think I played at a high quality level from the first point to the last point. Abdullah (Almezayen), the guy whom I lost to, had a very, very special performance that day to beat me. I think neither of us deserved to lose that day. I played him again in the team event semi-final when we played Kuwait and I won 3-2 at that time. I just think it’s kind of fair that we played two matches and he won the first one and I won the second one.
SR: How tough was it to regroup and refocus for the team event after such a heartbreaking loss in the singles final?
Ghosal: It was really difficult because I had worked extremely hard to prepare specifically with that in mind. I played well also, so it was really hard to come so close and not be able to win it. The day I lost I was completely heartbroken.
But then I knew that the team event was starting and India needed me to play at least close to my best. The guys in my team like Harinder (Pal Sandhu), Mahesh (Mangaonkar) and Kush (Kumar) are very good guys and had worked extremely hard to get to the Games. And they had worked really hard to put us in a position where we had a genuine chance of winning the Asian Games. So it was very important for me and that’s what drove me on. I just couldn’t let those guys down as they had done so much. That’s how I tried to forget about the singles and focus on the team event so that I could do it for them.
And also doing that, I got an opportunity for some sort of redemption for not winning the singles. It was also a chance for me to put things right. So that’s what I tried to focus on.
SR: It has been a great year for Indian squash and most of the medal winners, including yourself, have perfected their craft at the Indian Squash Academy. How crucial has been the academy’s role behind the current success of Indian squash?
Ghosal: The academy in Chennai is one of its kind in terms of infrastructure in India. The main value that it has added to Indian squash is that it has given a proper structure to people’s training especially in the junior ranks. I think the academy is highly beneficial for junior level players at the world level.
Unfortunately, we, as a country, do not yet have the necessary expertise and infrastructure to produce top level professionals living in India. For that we need to go abroad. I was in England for 8-9 years with Malcolm (Willstrop), Dipika (Pallikal) trains under Sarah Fitz-Gerald, Joshna (Chinappa) comes to England as well. So that is still important. To begin with as a junior, I was at the academy for 3 years. The academy has definitely helped Indian squash in the junior level and now the juniors are doing well at the World juniors and Asian juniors.
SR: What are your immediate goals in the professional circuit?
Ghosal: Right now I am 17th in the world. So my focus will now shift to getting that ranking into the top 10. I am going to play the US Open next week, the Macau Open at the end of the month and the World Open next month. These are the three next professional events I am playing this year. The idea is to obviously continue to win matches and try and win one of these tournaments which would be fantastic.
Sports Rediscovered would like to thank Saurav Ghosal for finding out a few minutes from his busy schedule for the chat and would also like to wish him all the very best for his career.