Apt reward for perseverance
S. Sangeetha, ranked No. 3 in India, talks about her successes at the South Asia junior table tennis championship held in Bangladesh recently.
S. Sangeetha at the 64th Junior National Table Tennis Championship.
IN A state, which has a plethora of talent in the junior section, it came as no surprise when S. Sangeetha won the singles and the doubles in the South Asia junior table tennis championship in Bangladesh recently. A trainee of former National champion and Arjuna Awardee V. Chandrasekar at the Medimix Chandra Academy, Arumbakkam, the 15-year-old Sangeetha has been going about her ways quietly with confidence, and the rich bag of two individual golds and a silver was only an apt reward for her perseverance. In fact, India swept the titles in the boys and girls team events in the championship.
"I did not think that I will win the (singles) title, but when I went and played there after a couple of matches I realised that I could make it to the top, said Sangeetha, who defeated countrymate Madhurika Patkar in the final.
In the absence of National junior champion and top seed Mausami Paul, who fell ill (reportedly of chicken pox), the onus fell on Sangeetha, M. Aparna and Madhurika, and the three did a fine job in the team event, belting the opposition into submission.
Defeating Nepal 3-0, trouncing Pakistan 3-0, and putting it across Bangladesh and Nepal by identical margins in the semifinals and final respectively, the Indians proved to be several notches above almost every country. "But, I felt the Sri Lankan team, played very well," said Sangeetha.
While it was the best of three games in the doubles event, the singles event was the best of five. Sangeetha got past Srimali of Sri Lanka 3-1, then put it across Moumita of Bangladesh 3-0, trounced Kalpani of Sri Lanka 3-0, but was stretched by Madhurika Patkar. Having played against her many times, Sangeetha was able to pull off a 3-2 win. She later paired with Amalraj to claim the mixed doubles title, and with M. Aparna (affectionately called Mappu) came up trumps in the girls doubles. "It feels happy to win. I have to thank Ashok sir, Chandra sir, and D.V. Sundar sir (Secretary of TNTTA) for supporting and encouraging me to play to my potential," said Sangeetha.
Sangeetha has been a force to reckon with in the age category for more than two to three years, her gradual improvement is due to constant practice under the watchful eyes of the chief coach of the Medimix Chandra Academy, M.S. Ashok Kumar (elder brother of twice National champion Mythili).
"He (Ashok) believes in the players capability and encourages them," said Sangeetha, as she recalled how in the doubles event of the BSNL National junior team championship in Chennai, the duo fought back after being 0-2 games down. "It was due to the timely advice given by Ashok sir."
Sangeetha has been part of the successful Tamil Nadu team that made history twice. In 2000, the Tamil Nadu sub-junior girls team clinched gold in the National team championship, and then in December 2002, the Tamil Nadu juniors team regained the gold both almost after a decade. She has been a consistent performer in the state-level, but her ranking of No. 5 shows the talent available in Chennai.
Sangeetha's parents are a source of strength. "It is a tough balancing act to juggle studies and table tennis, very difficult if the player does very well in the sport," explained Sangeetha's mother Malathi Seshadri, an Assistant Sub-Divisional Engineer in BSNL Ltd. Downplaying her role, she continued, "It is her father (Mr. Seshadri of Income Tax) who does most of the work, going to tournaments, taking time off to pick her up and drop her at the academy. Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan SSS, Lake Area (where Sangeetha is doing her Xth Std.) has been kind to my daughter in granting her leave, and is very accommodative, pointed out Mrs. Malathi.
She has everything going for her: a strong forehand, and a deceptive backhand. But the left-hander is trifle slow on her feet. She acknowledges that and vows to improve. Currently ranked No. 3 in India, Sangeetha is bound to go up the ladder.
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