Sneha Waykar - National and Asian ChessBoxing champion 2023
From coding instructor to chessboxer, there is nothing that this talented 23-year-old cannot do. Sneha has won many laurels in the world of ChessBoxing. Within a few years, she has established her name in this highly athletic and booming sport. Sneha is the current national champion of India and has proudly represented India and secured a Gold medal at Asian ChessBoxing Championships 2023 and a Silver medal at the World Championships 2022. Through this article we want to acquaint you with the life of this fighting athlete, how she is trying to pursue her passion in spite of all the hurdles.
Sneha Waykar, the current national ChessBoxing champion of India and also the gold medalist at the Asian Championships, is a 24-year-old coding instructor who hails from Mumbai. Sneha’s ChessBoxing journey began in 2019 when her coach, Mr. Ajit Parab insisted she pursues ChessBoxing considering how much popularity it is gaining in Europe and Russia. Sneha has been pursuing chessboxing ever since then and has won many medals. With the world championship coming soon in October, Sneha is preparing for that and aims to represent India and win a medal at the Olympics. Learn more about this interesting personality, her journey, her ambition, her training methods, and more.
Always an athletic kid, Sneha was inclined towards sports right from a young age. She used to play badminton in her early days, then soon switched to boxing. When asked why boxing out of all sports, she said that it gave her a way to deal with all her life problems, an outlet to let go of all the negative energy around her and direct it towards something positive. Sneha trained at the Central Railway Sports Club in Parel, and after 6 months of training, she participated in her first tournament. However, that did not turn out so well, and she lost the first game itself. This demotivated her a little bit and led her to think that all the hard work she had put in in six months went down the drain. But being the fighter she is, she bounced back, trained harder, and came back into the ring. It took her almost a year before she won a medal in the game, but it went only uphill from there. There are a lot of misconceptions in India that women should not pursue athletic sports, and Sneha put an end to all of that through her hard work, dedication, and discipline.
Sneha says that her family has always been supportive of her goals. Her mother was a kabaddi player and she looked after her diet, picked her up after matches, and supported her in every way possible. The only thing her mother was adamant about was having a backup plan. In India, it is still not sure if every person can make a stable career out of sports; therefore, her mother forced her to pursue her studies. Thus, Sneha completed her engineering degree in computer science and today works as a part-time coding instructor at BrightChamps.
In 2019, Sneha’s coach convinced her to enter this particular sport. She loved challenges and, therefore, took them up. Although Sneha knew the rules of a chess game, she was not an avid player herself. Her brother and mother used to play the game frequently and would ask her to join. After coming into the sport, she had to get better and hone her skills. "Even though I knew how to play the game, I was making blunders." ChessBoxing is a combination of two very different yet similar sports, chess and boxing, and thus requires a different training schedule from the individual counterparts.
Unlike chess, chessboxing happens in a closed ring, with thousands of people watching and cheering. Loud noise and hard lights are part of it, which is not the case in a traditional chess match. Therefore, when training, the players set up the environment accordingly. Also, unlike boxing, chess requires one to have a lot of mental control over themselves. Sneha tells us that the first round of chess is relatively easy because you are fresh, but after the first round of boxing, immediately going into the second round of chess is pretty hard, especially when you have been hit. Your adrenaline is at its peak, your body is in a lot of pain, and at that very instant, you have to calm yourself down, pull out your gloves, and play chess with ultimate focus. How does one manage that, you ask? Sneha says that’s where a sync between body and mind comes in. "It is very important for a chessboxer to not only train their body but also their mind; to have control over your whole body is what this game requires." The best and most beautiful part of this sport is that it gives an individual the opportunity to train everything from their mind to the tip of their toe. One cannot just hone one skill and think that it will work out.
While starting out, Sneha used to play chess just to survive so that she could go into the second round of boxing, in which she was pretty confident, but as one participates in more serious tournaments, one faces stronger players and thus has to train according to that. In order to train better in her chess games, Sneha watches a lot of chess videos online and went to the Big Chess Summer Camp organized by ChessBase India at the Phoenix Marketcity in Kurla. There she would see players making their moves, learn from them, and get a lot of help from Sagar as well. Right now, she has no professional coach or training mentor, but going forward, as she prepares for the world championship, she is looking for a professional trainer for chess as well.
Chess and Boxing: Similarities and Differences
One may wonder what it is about these two sports that just make it work. There could have been many other combinations as well, but this one just fits well into the puzzle and has been gaining a lot of popularity. Sneha feels that ChessBoxing is a wonderful combination and has the ability to enter the Olympics at some point. Boxing has been banned from the 2028 Olympics, and chess has not yet entered the Olympics. Combining these two can give them a decent chance in the near future. Unlike chess, one cannot go into boxing with a particular plan. "You get hit once, and then and there all your plans fail. You always have to be on your toes all the time."
Although the two games are pretty opposite in many ways, Sneha feels that what helps them sync so beautifully is that at the bottom of it, one has to attack and defend simultaneously in a match to win.
When asked what all the changes she is facing right now are, Sneha answers, "The only problem I am facing right now is getting a good sponsor. I feel Indian sports are lagging right now because of the financial support. That is the only thing that is pulling us down. If you reach an international level, then you will get noticed, but for struggling, no one will push you." Apart from that, there are many other factors that need to be considered, like Boxer’s diet, travel, coaching, etc., and all of that needs financial backing. Sneha trains two to three times a day: first, the morning session, which is followed by 3–4 hours of her part-time job, then evening training. "The morning and afternoon sessions are fine, but the evening ones are a little hard. When you train so much, your body gets tired and needs rest. Right now, I am at my parent’s house, and I am working remotely, so that is fine, but managing everything gets a little tiring at times." Sneha's motivation in Chess world is Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi and chess commentator and comedian Samay Raina.
"I am very fortunate that I get good backing from the people around me; my company sponsored me in my last tournament. Earlier, a woman boxer was looked down upon, but these days, people are becoming more progressive. I get tired at times, but I will never give up because I have to achieve my goal of participating in the Olympics. I want to represent my country in that and win a medal as well." The best thing about all of this is that the president of World ChessBoxing, Mr. Montu Das is Indian, so it has a lot of scopes to grow well in India as well. Sneha hopes that in future a lot more tournaments will be organized in India.
For Sneha, her worst memory of a tournament was in an Indian open - world tournament, when she gave 100 percent but lost on time. It was demotivating, but she bounced back stronger in the nationals. When asked about her best memory, Sneha recalls it being the last world championship in Turkey, when she was the only Indian to be selected for the IFC (a professional fight) conducted by Paris. Sadly, the fight wasn't conducted and was postponed because her opponent was from Russia and couldn't get her visa due to the war. "People saw my game and found me worthy of doing this; that was really one of my best moments in life." Currently, Sneha is preparing for the world championship, which will be conducted in two months in Italy. In her parting words, she says, "I feel more chess players should also participate in chess boxing; this will help us take this game to a new level."