Elementary student is an emerging racquetball champion

The bangs against the white walls of the racquetball court echoed throughout the room as Advait Kartik swung at the small rubber ball.

But the cacophony doesn't bother Advait. He barely notices the loud noises while focusing on the ball.

"I want to make sure I have enough power," he said. "I want to keep getting better."

The 8-year-old from La Crescenta is already a champion for his age group in the sport. He took home gold from the National Racquetball Championship in May in Fullerton and fourth place at the National Junior Olympics in Colorado at the end of June.

"I want to become the No. 1 player," he said, noting how he idolizes Kane Waselenchuk, the top player on the International Racquetball Tour.

Racquetball, which was invented in the 1950s by a Connecticut man, was most popular in the 1970s to 1990s. In 1995, it was incorporated into the Pan American Games, according to the U.S. Racquetball Foundation's website.

A mixture of tennis and squash, the sport can be played indoors or outdoors and incorporates a racquet, rubber ball and a wall in a 40-foot-by-20-foot space. Opponents play on the same side of the wall, attempting to hit the ball after just one bounce.

Advait started playing when he was 6 years old. Although he's grown since then, the 28-inch racquet is still roughly half his size.

He likes the fast pace of the game, the challenge and the maneuvering that's involved. He loves to hit low balls, the kind that hit the wall so far down that by the time they bounce, an opponent can't run fast enough to smack it.

He also likes that the game is unique. None of his friends at Mountain Avenue Elementary play the game, which is more popular among adults.

"It's a very intimidating game," said Kartik Sundram, Advait's father. "Most children get turned off. I'm surprised that he likes this game as much."

Advait, who will be entering third grade, wanted to play the game after watching his father compete in a tournament. At his first competition, though, Advait played against a 12-year-old because there were so few children his age. He lost.

"My first match, I cried," he said. "After the game, my Mom said it doesn't matter if I win or lose, so long as I love to play the game."

Now, when he loses, Advait thinks of it as a lesson rather than a failure. He had tried soccer, baseball and basketball before playing racquetball, but none of the traditional games stuck.

Advait's uncles on his mother's side play cricket and volleyball professionally, and his grandfather is a sports recruiter. Sundram likes to joke that his son's athleticism comes from his wife's side.

The most important thing that playing racquetball has taught Advait, though, is dedication, Sundram said.

"When he gets into the court, he has the game face on. It's a transformation," he said.

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