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23 May, 2015   Nicolette Mok

Our Sporting Hero. My Neighbour. Vivian Rhamanan.

Bouncing his toddler son on his lap, Vivian Rhamanan looks every bit the regular dad enjoying a morning in the park with his family. Only a toy racket, brandished about playfully by little Travis, hints subtly at the young father’s true identity.

Indeed, Vivian’s name has been synonymous with Singapore’s squash scene for the longest time. A former child prodigy, the 29-year old has been competing and coaching for several years, looking to take the sport to new levels here in Singapore.

Picking up squash at the age of 11, Vivian was prompt in his ascent, attaining his first title – the Singapore National Junior Championship Under 12 – with just one year of training. The talented athlete went on to sweep several other subsequent age group titles and, prior to graduating to the senior playing field, he had broken into the top 64 of the global junior rankings and was considered one of the top 10 Asian boys.

Of course, Singapore’s number one continued dominating, with last year's Masonry Singapore Closed Squash Championship marking Vivian’s fifth consecutive national title. In addition, 2014 also saw him triumphing at the Bangkok Jumbo Doubles and the Raintree Jumbo Doubles in Kuala Lumpur, as well as finishing second – to Malaysia – at the 2015 Marigold Southeast Asia Cup.

Having competed mostly in squash-only tournaments throughout his career, Vivian is seeking to use the 28th SEA Games as a springboard to make his breakthrough into the prestigious world of international multi-sport meets. This year marks the first time that squash will be featured in the regional Games since 2007.

“We are going to use the SEA Games as a platform for us to go for the Commonwealth and Asian Games. Those are big targets, and we hope to do well in the SEA Games for us to achieve them,” he revealed.

“Playing international competitions [helps me] to challenge myself against players better than I am, to see how I have been putting my training into good use. In Singapore, when you play the tournaments here, you’re pretty much used to all the people who have been playing. You pretty much expect what’s going to happen,” he continued.

The skilled player, who had hoped to play in all three of the men’s events available at the 28th SEA Games, has been listed only for the team event and the jumbo doubles, due to scheduling issues. He will be pairing up with long-time teammate Marcus Phua, forming a formidable duo that has, so far, remained undefeated.

When he is not, well, squashing his opponents on the court, the veteran sportsperson dedicates his time to coaching and realising his hopes for the local squash community. Vivian, who earned his official coaching certification at just 15 years old (making him the youngest to do so at the time), is eager to leverage his unique position both as a national player and coach to raise more awareness about his sport and "create more interest among Singaporeans".

"I would like to go around to the neighbourhood schools and talk about squash, not only as a competitive sport, but also as a career that one can take up in the future, going into coaching and stuff like that. It gives you opportunities to engage yourself with kids and share your knowledge," he remarked.

Adding that a SEA Games return for squash after such a long time was a step in the “right direction”, he expressed: “But I think it can be better. Once I’m done with my playing career, I want to try to work more on that and help squash to be more recognised.”

Indeed, who better to lead the next era of squash players to greater international heights than one of the current generation’s very best?