PANAJI: Goa’s Akanksha Salunkhe lived up to the expectations of a sizeable crowd at the Chicalim Multipurpose Sports Complex to defeat Tamil Nadu’s Pooja Arthi 11-5, 11-4, 11-3 and clinch the women’s singles gold medal in the squash competition of the ongoing 37th National Games on Sunday.
This is Goa’s 11th gold medal of the Games and take the host’s medal tally to 49, which also includes 12 silvers and 26 bronze medals. Salunkhe, who currently stays and trains in the United States, was so dominant throughout the week that she did not lose a single game in the entire tournament.
Even in the final against Pooja, the local favourite rarely looked in any trouble. She scored points at will with cross court drop shots and kept Pooja on her toes in the front court. “I came here with a single goal of winning the gold. I was not thinking of silver or bronze and I am happy that I could achieve my target,” said Salunkhe after the match. The 24-year-old, who learnt the ropes of the game in Goa before heading to USA for studies and better raining six years ago, said there was no doubt in her mind about turning up for the state at the National Games.
“I had made up my mind to play the National Games ever since it was clear last year that the Games will be held during this period. Luckily for me, I was anyway going to play in Malaysia and things worked out fine in terms of scheduling. “But even if that was not the case, I would have still come to play because this is where I started my career and many people have contributed to my development. This is my way of giving back to Goa and to all those who have supported me so far,” she added.
The support for Salunkhe was quite visible as the stands were packed with local squash players and family members, who cheered every point she won.
Speaking about her future plans, the world No. 74 said her immediate goal is the break into the top50 by the end of the season. She also said that all the players of her generation now have the additional motivation to do well as squash is slated to make its Olympic debut in 2028.
“But there are many seasons and tournaments before that and I need to focus on keeping the momentum and staying at my best,” she added.
other Goa results so far
1. In the triathlon event, Goa’s Ananya Mukherjee finished fifth with a time of 1:19.37s.
2. In Handball, Goa men’s team lost to Services 40-29 and then beat Madhya Pradesh 37-32 in the second match of the round robin stage
Boxing (Round of 16)
54-57kg Feather weight: Pralhad Panda (Goa) lost to Rushikesh Goud (Mah) 4-1
75-80kg Light Heavy weight: Lokesh (Goa) bt Arshpreet Singh (Pun) 5-0
86-92 kg Heavy weight: Sai Ayush (Goa) bt Harsh Rana (Del) 4-1
92+ Super Heavy: Gaurav Chouhan (Goa) bt Sumit Rangi (Har) RSC
In Lawn Bowls
Women Triples: West Bengal bt Goa 30-10
Men Singles: Odisha bt Goa 21-5
Mens Four G: Delhi bt Goa 25-4
Women Pairs K: Odisha bt Goa 30-5
Boxing women (Round of 16)
57-60kg Light weight: Niharika (Goa) bt Saji Greeta (Ker) 5:0
63-66kg Welter weight: Shrisha Jampula (Goa) lost to Komalpreet Kaur (Pun) 0:5
70-75kg Middle weight: Sanamacha Chanu (Goa) bt Jigyasa Rajput (MP) 5:0