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Exclusive interview with Rajesh and Aparna Mappu : The brains behind the Chennai Table Tennis Foundation

Vakkalanka Venkataramana

Another example to highlight the argument that the development of Indian sport is like the movements of a frog in a well-one step forward, two steps back is the progress of table tennis:  an immensely popular sport, both competitively and as a physical fitness activity has been producing, since the 60s till now,  many a talented paddler.

The list is all too familiar now including the likes of Dhawan, G Jagannath, V Chandrasekhar, Vidya,  Hari, Pallavi, Arulselvi, S Raman, Bhubaneswari, ,Kamlesh Mehta, Sharat Kamal, Chetan Baboor, Soumyadeep Roy,Subhajit Saha, Saurav Chakraborthy, Antony Amalraj, Satyan, Paulami Ghatak,Soumyajit Ghosh, Anirban Nandi, Mouma Das, Ankta Das, Saurav Saha,Raj Mondal, S Basu Roy,Ranbir Das etc… But even as the sport developed by way of infrastructure and introduction of foreign coaches.

ALSO READ : Recap of the Tennis Huddle held in New Delhi!

India was yet to produce a player who could excel on prestigious international arenas like world championships and Olympics although a few of our paddlers managed to qualify for these competitions. Right now Sharat Kamal has the distinction of being recognised as the hightest world ranked singles talent.

Alongside  the aforesaid talents a few more had been progressing impressively in competitive play, took  up a full time role in developing the sport in their respective home states.

One of them who is striving to keep up the chain of talent supply is Chennai’s Rajesh Mappu and his wife Aparna, who was also a talented nationally ranked player. The husband-wife team , like a few other former players, are coaching young talent at their Academy named Chennai Table Tennis Foundation.

Rajesh, the current 40 age group national champion, had represented India in Commonwealth championships and other international outings in 2006-07 while Aparna was a former junior national champion.

She had also represented India at the senior level in Commonwealth championship before switching to coaching. Rajesh is also currently involved in the organisation of the table tennis league on the lines of IPL in cricket.

In an interview to “The Sportsrush”, Rajesh opines that the rising popularity of table tennis and the good work being put in towards development has resulted in the rise of our paddlers at Asian level.

“To drive home the point that our talented singles players are now able to put up a strong show against reputed world ranked players, as proved in the recently launched Ultimate table tennis competition aimed at further boosting the game of our top players and exposure for some upcoming paddlers, against internationally ranked players”

“It was a nail biting thriller. Soumyajeet Ghosh and Harmeet Desai had clinched a total of 2 games against the Brazilians in the finals of the World Championships at Kaula Lampur, Malaysia. The Brazilians had also taken two games beating the Indian Captain for the night,Ghosh and the Indian Puma of Table tennis, Amal Raj. It was the deciding tie and it went down to the last set   Harmeet Desai was down 6-9 against the Brazilian.”

“The elaborate facade contrasted strongly with the severity of the interior. Harmeet brought it to 9-10. The decision of making the Indian Legend of Table Tennis, Sharath Kamal sit out for the final game started to seem like a horrendous call. Harmeet went all out and gave his heart and soul and clinched the gold for India by beating the Brazilian 15-13 in the last set.”

“This meant the Indian Table Tennis team qualifies into the top tier or better known as champions division  of International Table Tennis in the upcoming World Championships. The Indian Womens Team beat Luxembourg in the second division finals of the World Championships 3-0 to qualify into the top tier of International Table Tennis This was a huge breakthrough for the Indian TT team as this meant more recognition for the sport back home.”

“Table tennis would be taken more seriously in a cricket fanatic country like India. This helped increase the number of table tennis enthusiasts and also helped motivate young players watch their seniors perform at the top most level. This set a benchmark and made players raise their expectations or goals to perform in the international circuit and not just to represent the country”.

“The level of intensity in training camps and the grind helped them build a huge amount of confidence and brought change in the way the Indian Paddlers carried themselves. After several days and nights of rigorous training, Indian Paddlers started performing in Pro Tours.”

“2016 and 2017 marked the Rise pf Indian Table Tennis at the global stage with the likes of Sathiyan and Soumyajeet Ghosh winning Belgium Open and Chile Open. Meanwhile Amal Raj made it to two consecutive Pro Tour finals at Brazil and Chile. Sarthak Gandhi also made it to the finals of the Nigerian Open. Two Arjuna award was given to Soumyajeet Ghosh and A.Amal Raj in 2016 and 2017 respectively for their accolades in the field of Table Tennis.”

“July 2017 marked the inaugural season of Ultimate Table Tennis where foreign players were brought in and made to play alongside Indian prodigies under a new  and interesting format. This gave the Indian players very good exposure and were able to share the dressing room with likes of Han Ying, Aruna Quadri, Marcos Freitas, Wong Chung Ting and Li Ping. This was the first time, Indian Paddlers and table tennis enthusiast could witness Table tennis is such grandeur. ”

“As quoted by Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish philosopher, “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities. It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”

“As per the new World Ranking System, 6 men and 1 woman paddler are in top 100 of the world rankings. The Indian Table Tennis team is currently ranked 14 in the world. With the current growth rate in terms of standard and Indian Table Tennis, Indians could compete with the Chinese in the next 5-7 years and probably produce a World Champion in the next decade. It is high time, we Indians make a mark at the elite tier of Table Tennis,” Rajesh opines.

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