Jaipur, February 12: The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And for the 1,500 men and women paddlers that have descended here to participate in the Silver Jubilee edition of the Veterans National Table Tennis Championships, getting underway at the SMS Indoor Stadium from tomorrow, this idiom is passé. They consider it a mere expression because their mind and soul are more than willing.
The enthusiasm among them has to be seen to be believed. For them, age is just a number. They are more eager and determined than the young paddlers of today. Otherwise, how does one explain the craze and passion? After all, there are 47 trophies and 95 gold medals to be won.
Takes for instance Satish Chandra Puri of Uttar Pradesh or, for that matter, Usha Ben Shah from Gujarat—arguably the oldest paddlers representing their states. Puri was born in 1930 while Usha Ben in 1939. They are competing in 80+ and 70+ categories!
So, for the next six days their entire concentration will be on putting their best foot forward and performing to the best of their abilities in front of their children and grandchildren—some have been accompanied by their family members—to reiterate the point that old is still gold. They want to prove to none but to themselves that they still retain the verve and skills to meet any challenge.
With matches—team events, singles, doubles and mixed doubles—to be played in seven categories, one can witness the pulse rate going up among the players, especially in the 40+ and 50+ sections. In fact, before coming to the Pink City most of them have been practising as fervently as professionals would do.
Not surprisingly, the A teams of Maharashtra, who are current men champions in both 40+ and 50+ categories, have landed up with the largest contingent of about 250 players. Similarly, the West Bengal has sent a matching contingent with a new team leader in former National champion Arup Basak—he is venturing into the veterans for the first time—as their women would like to retain both 40+ and 50+ team titles which they won at Pune last year.
As for men 40+ singles, R. Rajesh of Tamil Nadu will not be hear and his absence should boost the chances of those finished with silver and bronze medals. It was three-in-a-row for Maharashtra players in men 50+ category last year and Vivek Alawani, K.K. Rai and Sunil Babras, also a former national champion, would be itching to go for the podium finish yet again.
In women singles in the same sections, the West Bengal players have been consistently doing well with Meenu Basak in 40+ and Manu Murmur in 50+. There is no reason to believe the results would be otherwise this year. Of course, a couple of points here and there could make the difference and the seasoned campaigners of West Bengal would be aware of it.
The veterans’ nationals are not just about winning alone. There are ardent participants, who save a lot to before every year’s World Veterans and a few of those who will be on view here have already entered for the Las Vegas meet in June this year. In other words, the nationals here provide them with the proper preparatory ground and they would not let the opportunity go by. The SMS Indoor stadium also provides a very congenial and cozy atmosphere which the veterans will cherish.
Another interesting aspect of the veterans’ nationals is also about the glamour quotient. The participation of yesteryear queens, the crowd favourites, like Munmun Mukherjee of Maharashtra, Meenu Basak of West Bengl or Rajasthan’s own Rani Chandrima, a very good junior player in her hay days, makes the event more attractive and enduring.
The Rajasthan Veterans Table Tennis Committee, led by a very energetic 40+ bunch of officials that have been a part and parcel of the sport for a long time as players and umpires, is taking extra care to handle the veterans with kid gloves. Their kindness is reflected in the decision to provide all those 80+ with free accommodation and food and make their stay as comfortable as possible.
Incidentally, this was the first occasion when entries have been received through the online system ever since TTFI took over the reign of veterans’ affairs in its hand by bringing all its committees under one umbrella, called the Indian Veterans Table Tennis Committee. The RVTTC has roped in ONGC as the title sponsors while there are a host of other supporting sponsors.
On the technical side, N. Ganeshan will be the competition manager with two experienced referees in A.S. Kler and T.G. Upadhya to support him along with 50 odd international and national umpires. Stag balls will be in use for categories up to 60+ while the rest will play with GKI balls. Stag will be supplying flooring and tables as usual.
Press release – TTFI
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