Dipika Pallikal, now a mother and interior designer, back on the squash court after four years | More sports news
Blessed with twins last October, the 31-year-old has been training hard over the past two months with a focus on the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games later this year.
Pallikal, who started an interior design business in his time away from the game, aims to create more history at the two multi-sport events.
She is expected to compete in the doubles events at the Birmingham Games before gradually increasing her workload to also play singles at the Hangzhou Games.
And just like that 3 became 5🤍@DineshKarthik and I’m so honored to have been blessed with two beautiful babies… https://t.co/Q7ipOBLubY
— Dipika Pallikal (@DipikaPallikal) 1635428385000
Pallikal and India’s highest-ranked player, Joshna Chinappa, won India’s first-ever gold medal in CWG history at the 2014 edition of Glasgow.
Speaking to PTI about motherhood and coming back, Pallikal said she was lucky to have a support system that allowed her time off the game in 2018.
The former world number 10 was ranked in the top 20 when she took the break but she couldn’t move up the ranks which made her decision easier.
Being a mother of twins is “double the workload”, but Pallikal, married to cricketer Dinesh Karthik, is enjoying this special phase of her life.
“Yeah, it’s tough (being a mom and a professional athlete) but I don’t want to dwell on that. Obviously it’s tough with kids’ sleep cycle and it’s double the work because of the twins.
“My husband is also an athlete, and he trains and plays outside, so I have a lot of responsibilities, but obviously I’m very lucky to have had a strong system, a family, that helps me with my schedule that I continue to train in the morning and evening.
“…it’s the same as before but I have to get up for a meal at 3am before training. But I knew long before that I wanted to come back to play. I had wanted to do this even before I had any kids and I knew it was going to be double the hard work I had to do after having kids.
“It’s been exactly that, it hasn’t been easy, but I appreciate the extra responsibility space of just coming home from training and being with the kids.”
A knee injury last year and the pandemic also delayed his comeback, but Pallikal can’t complain about COVID which is wreaking havoc on the lives of millions around the world. With the children by her side, she feels more grateful than ever.
“It’s a whole new way of looking at life. How can I say it’s a whole new way of looking at life. It’s always been squash squash squash since I was 10, me wanting to be the best in sports.
“But so much has happened in life in the last couple of years. I’ve learned to appreciate life and I appreciate the little things. So for me to be back on the court standing on my two feet and playing, it gives me happiness,” said winner Padma Shri and Arjuna.
Pallikal could return to competition alongside Joshna at the Women’s Doubles World Championships in Glasgow in April. The Chennai-based player plans to return to the PSA professional circuit only after the Asian Games. She expects to be back to her best after another month of training.
His selection to the Indian squad for the two big events is subject to his performance in the trials which will take place in due course, SRFI General Secretary Cyrus Poncha has said.
Pallikal was 27 when she retired from the game. Four years later, she remains young enough to compete at the highest level. Her longtime teammate Joshna, who is 35, has played her best squash in the past two years and only seems to be getting better with age.
Speaking about the decision she made in 2018, Pallikal added: “I wanted to take time off for many reasons. I felt like I was stalling in the results, I was at a level where I was not very happy.
“Another reason was wanting to start a family. And definitely trying to do something different. I had been playing squash since I was 10. I hadn’t done anything other than squash.
“Maybe it wasn’t the right time back then. Maybe it was the right time.
“Maybe it was the right age. Maybe it wasn’t the age. But I felt like I was stagnating and I sat down and really felt like I wasn’t going to progress. So for for me it was very important (to make this call).”