Glenwood’s squash ace on the right track

2014-07-08 00:00

GLENWOOD High School Grade 12 pupil Shailen Maharaj spends much of his time boasting, but it’s in pursuit of his ambition to reach the top in the world of squash.

He’s been working on his talent for some years and is currently under the watchful eye of coach Chris Hewitson — the KZN regional coach who has been involved in the game for more than 30 years as a coach and who played professionally in the 1980s.

Maharaj currently plays in Glenwood’s first squash team, seeded number one and is currently ranked ninth in South Africa at U19 level.

“I played in all the qualifying tournaments for SA Schools squash at U19 level, where I was seeded in the top 10 on most occasions,” said Maharaj.

“To be ranked number nine is exciting and it took hard work to get there, plenty of training and perseverance. I think the toughest challenge for me was balancing my matric work with all the tournaments.”

This is another accolade for Maharaj as he has already had squash take him overseas at U14 level.

“This is another great honour for me, but my squash highlight so far was achieving my SA colours at U14 level and finishing seventh in the Canadian Junior Open in 2010, when I played U15,” he said.

The youngster has also shown his squash court skills and talent in London, competing at three international tournaments in 2012, where he was never off the podium.

At the Adingdon Tournament he was second and achieved the same result at the Redlands, before bagging third at the Avon Elite.

“I was in London as a squash exchange student in 2012 and it was here I learnt much of my skills and techniques with Jonny Harford, who is currently director of squash at Wycliffe College, in Worcester.”

Weighing 60 kg and at 1,70 metres tall, Maharaj has been gifted with the right assets to play squash. His light weight means he can move like lightning around the court and his height gives him a more than useful reach.

“I pride myself on my speed and quickness on court, two more than essential ingredients in my quest to become one of the top 10 players in South Africa,” he said.

“Squash is a game where you learn all the time and although blessed with speed, anticipation and the art of retrieving and control are vital in ensuring a player has an all-round game.”

Another goal of Maharaj’s is to play in the World Junior Squash Champs and, while it is an ambition, he is making inroads in the right direction.

“I have been selected to play in the Jarvis Cup invitational side in Cape Town later this month and thereafter, represent Glenwood at the top SA Schools event at the end of the month,” he said.

Through the years, Maharaj has clearly indicated his prowess for the game. At U13 he was ranked one in KZN; at U14 he was KZN one and SA three; at U15 and U16 he was two in KZN and now, in the open (U19) division, he is KZN one and SA nine.

“Other than squash, I enjoy football and Cristiano Ronaldo is my favourite sportsperson, even though Portugal did not feature at the World Cup,” said Maharaj. “No prizes for guessing my sporting hero — Egypt’s Mohamed Elshorbagy, one of the world’s top squash players, currently ranked three in the world.”

Off court, Maharaj keeps it simple. When it comes to his favourite food, he goes for spaghetti and mince, listens to R&B music and enjoys MMA and playing Playstation 3 games.

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