Triumph in the recent St. Paul’s Academy State-ranking table tennis tournament saw Nikhat Banu crack a century. Three titles in the above tournament propelled the India junior No. 8 into the centurion club, barely six years after she came into the limelight by clinching the cadet crown (for girls’ under 10 years) at Chennai in 2003.

Interestingly, five of her titles are at the national level, while her achievements in the state ranking events heavily outnumber those in non-ranking competitions at the ratio of 82:13. Progress for the 15-year-old has been steady, as she advanced from the cadet to the sub-junior category with 13 triumphs in each section. In juniors, she doubled that figure, while in youth and women’s classes, she has claimed 15 trophies each.

Greater feats

She has accomplished feats on the international firmament too. In the 2005 Tai Yuan international junior open championship in the Chinese city of the same name, she led the Indian team to silver in the under-12 years category. That coming on the turf most difficult to conquer in the realm of international table tennis was truly a big achievement for one so small.

Barely a year ago, she was a member of the gold-medal winning team in the South Asia junior championships at Karachi, Pakistan and represented the country a fortnight later at Singapore in the Asian championship. In August 2008, she led India ‘B’ in the World Junior Circuit Indian Open at Pune, claiming silver in doubles and reached the singles quarterfinals too.

Although it is a Herculean task for her mother Naseem Banu to back her financially, Nikhat is fortunate to enjoy the support of acclaimed sports medicine specialist Dr. Bhaktiar Choudhary, her coaches Maduri Venugopal and T. Nagaraj.

Also standing solidly behind her are her alma mater, the Kendriya Vidyalay, Picket and its Principal, Mrs. Sudha Mani and the Gujrati Seva Mandal (GSM), where she trains. Always in the background is her maternal grandfather Mohammed Ibrahim, who travels with her on tours and to coaching sessions.

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