At 11-years-old, Advait Kartik is already living his dream.
A few days ago Advait's father Kartik Sundram received a call from the United States Assn. of Racquetball, asking if the young athlete would be ready to represent Team USA at the International Racquetball Federation's Junior World Championship in November in Minnesota.
Sundram accepted and told his son the good news before his swim practice.
"I had tears in my eyes — it's [my] happiest moment," Advait said, an incoming sixth-grader at Mountain Avenue Elementary. "I am proud all my hard work paid off."
Last month Advait ranked within the Top 4 in his age category at the National Racquetball Championships in Stockton. His ranking allowed him to qualify for Team USA.
The La Crescenta resident has practiced for 10 hours every week at the Crescenta-Cañada Family YMCA for the past six years. Running, swimming, bicycling and meditation are incorporated in his routine to help strengthen his skills.
He uses a timetable on Google Docs to help plan his days to include enough time for homework. As a GATE student, Advait said school is "a top priority."
His passion for "challenging math problems" help him "become a better player" because he can predict a ball's movement and gravity and strategize how it moves from angle to angle.
In 2014 he took home gold from the National Racquetball Championship in Fullerton and fourth place at the National Junior Olympics in Colorado.
"Getting to the World Championships is one of my top priorities so far in [my] racquetball career," Advait said. "I know I'd get to World because I practice so much — all that experience has paid off."
Advait became interested in the sport after watching his father compete in a tournament. He tried other sports — soccer, tennis, basketball and baseball — but he fell in love with racquetball.
He enjoys the camaraderie, the speed of the game and, most importantly, winning. But it hasn't always been easy for him. During his first competition as a 6-year-old, he competed against a 12-year-old because there were so few children his age. He lost.
Advait said he now takes those losses as learning experiences. He reflects and strategizes how to improve for future matches.
He recalls a recent competition where he nearly lost the match, but he managed to increase his focus and rip the ball — hit it really hard — and win the game.
"He's passionate about the sport. You can't do two hours everyday without loving something," Sundram said. "There is pain and hard work behind his titles and the winning has come after many loses."
Sundram jokes Advait received genes from his mother's side of the family. Advait's uncles play cricket and volleyball professionally for India. The two have been instrumental in guiding Advait by motivating him to be consistent and maintain a healthy diet.
In the coming months, Advait said he will train longer and study his opponent's weak spots as he physically and mentally prepares for the high-stakes competition.
"This is a very proud thing for me," Advait said.