Laser-focused and swift movements as he glides across the court, Pevinder Vijaya, a star on the rise and national squash athlete, has the best of both worlds. Having represented Negeri Sembilan in the recent CIMB National Junior Circuit 3rd Leg 2023, his performance has earned him triumph over other nationwide athletes competing in the league at just the age of sixteen.
Beyond the court and the fitness regime, the Seremban-born lad is also a first-semester foundation in science student at Nilai University. We managed to catch up with him, keen to learn more about how he is enjoying life as an active sportsman while also maintaining his fit mental and energy into performing his studies.
Can you share what your daily routine looks like?
I previously went to Zenith International School, and transitioning to Nilai University surprisingly does not require that much change to my daily routine. Of course, I have to adopt a more independent approach to the demanding curriculum. However, there is some flexibility of time as classes start in the range of 8 am to 10 am. Then, there is the pressure of time for the short semester, but that does not interfere with my training, as I allocate the time to focus on my training after classes have ended. My schedule helps in allocating time for studying, doing my work, and training. It takes some exert of discipline, I would say.
Not many youths are pursuing the same journey as you, it is an exciting one. But of course, it would come with its own set of challenges, what do you think is the greatest challenge you are facing now?
Yes, most of my friends are still in school and some are sitting for their Sijil Peperiksaan Malaysia examination. They are a great support and have been cheering on me all the way. I would say the biggest challenge is setting my focus on one goal and not letting it interfere with one another. My recent tournament just ended last Sunday, and I am about to sit for my examination this week, so I went through some challenges to focus on the game and not worry about the papers. Eventually, I managed to put my head in the game and here I am about to sit for my paper in a few hours from now. I also have swimming practice in between my schedule. So, although my time is relatively more compact, I make sure to have some leisure time to myself. That is the way I can sustain my overall physical and mental fitness.
Can you describe your major highlights and achievements in squash so far?
I would say that my highlight of achievement would be qualifying from 30th to 16th place in the CIMB National Junior Circuit 3rd Leg. I also get to compete against other competitors from Taiwan, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, and Thailand for the 14th Kuala Lumpur International Junior Open Squash Championship in 2022. Having represented Malaysia and Nilai University on that global platform, it was an honour and a surreal experience for me. Of course, the support from my coaches, peers, teammates, and professors created a supportive ecosystem in this journey.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received from your coaches or teammates?
It is going to be hard to name just one. They are very humorous and have their peculiar ways of pushing my limits, but I can mention one which is, “to play like your idol”. When I am off the court, I tend to have a different personality, I am more laid-back. When the game starts, I am a different person, I am utterly invested and focused, and I put a hold on the rest of the world for a while. So that piece stuck in my head, which is to play like your idol. Actually, what he said was to play like you are Michael Jackson, and just dance on the court. Because you see, squash is not just about winning or losing to me, it is more like a refuge. It keeps me grounded. So, when I am in the zone, I just let loose of all pressure and give my all on the court.
What strategies do you use to stay mentally sharp and prepared for each game?
Being focused and compartmentalising your role will help. It works for me as I need to be invested both physically and mentally each time I am in the game. On the court, I am a different person, and I stay committed to that until the time is up. This goes without saying that I am not exempted from pressure and hard times too. During these times, it is essential to reach out for assistance. It is completely fine to be vulnerable and seek support as that is how you find your core strength.
What is next for you after your Foundation studies and any future tournaments coming soon?
The subjects encompassing Biology, English, and Chemistry in this foundation programme definitely set me up for the variety of science fields available. I am certainly looking forward to specialising in a Forensic Science programme in the future. As for squash, I am planning to get back into intense callisthenics and build up my stamina in the university’s gym, as I am aiming to enter the British Junior Open Squash in London. So, it is going to be an exciting year.