Tennis duo in 40s are proving their mettle in international arena
It was their tireless effort and passion for the game that made their dream of representing the country a reality. S. Kumaran and V. Veeraraghavan might have lost their semi-finals doubles encounter (40 and above category) at the second Asian Veteran Table Tennis Championships at Taipei recently, but not before defeating former Asian games gold medallists Ma Ju Long and Shu Shang Lin in the quarterfinals."As we progressed in the tournament we knew that at one stage or the other we have to face stiff challenges. More than making it to the last four, a win over world class players was our proudest moment," exults Kumaran.
Not an easy task
To qualify for the tournament was not an easy task either, as they had to compete with nearly 190 other players in their category from the country. "Playing for the nation is always a special feeling. It urges you to give your best at any cost under any circumstances," says Kumaran who represents Tiruchi in the BHEL All India Inter-Unit tournaments and has won the singles title for the past 11 years. "But for my company's (BHEL) support in the form of encouragement and sponsorships it would not have been possible for me to make to higher levels," he says. Kumaran and Veeraragavan have played together for more than a decade, which the latter, who works for Dalmia Cements, points out as an important factor when playing at international level. "We know each others game and acted accordingly. It is very important to team up well, especially during close games."
Both these players are doing their part to promote the game in the districts by conducting regular training camps for youngsters. "I have been conducting free summer camps at the BHEL campus for the past 15 years, that has produced many University champions," adds Kumaran who is also the coach for the State Table Tennis Team. Under his guidance the State team won four golds, two each in the boys and girls section at the junior National Championship held at Goa."Hand and eye co-ordination is very important in Table Tennis. I insist players to do yoga regularly as it helps in improving concentration," he says.Veeraragavan cites paucity of funds as the major reason for district players failing to make it big, although rich talent is available. "Playing State or National level matches requires not just talent but also imported and expensive racquets. Besides, the players don't have the exposure on the latest advancements in the game."The tight academic schedule forces many youngsters to stay away from sport, says Kumaran and adds that there is need for the corporate sector to come forward and sponsor young talent.The duo is gearing themselves up for their next challenge - World Veteran Doubles Championship to be held in Germany in May. "We would like to improve on our performance there. It is going to be tough, but we are ready to give our best and bring laurels to the country," says a confident Veeraragavan.G. PRASAD