A role model for kids in Pulianthope

Amalraj with his parents: Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam  

No 6, Matchar Ammal Lane is now the most attractive address in Pulianthope. Amalraj Anthony, silver medallist in table tennis at the Commonwealth Games, lives there. Amalraj is the hero for many youngsters in the neighbourhood.

“Amalraj’s success is the story of hard work, determination, sacrifices and the grace of God,” says his father Anthony Arputharaj, assistant revenue officer (Alandur, Zone XII). In an interview, Anthony, who is also Amalraj’s first coach, answers a volley of questions, ranging from how Amalraj was initiated into table tennis, along with his two siblings, to the plans for Amala Annai Table Tennis Academy, which he runs from his home, for the benefit of underprivileged children.

What encouraged Amalraj to take up table tennis, which is not popular in north Chennai. And how would he practise?

I have been a table tennis player and Amalraj got interested seeing me playing. At the age of 6, he started to practise regularly. His day would start early, at 5 a.m., with exercises for one hour and TT practice for another hour. Again in the evening, he would do shadow practice in front of a mirror using tumbles, then practise till 8 p.m. During the weekends, he would run on the Marina Beach for three hours and practise TT at the Corporation Recreation Club in Ripon Building for two hours. Don Bosco Youth Centre at Basin Bridge was another place where he got trained, thanks to Father Gerald.

Amalraj left the city at the age of 10. Tell us about his childhood, his association with the city and the neighbourhood?

He was selected by a Chinese coach named Yenwei to represent the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) Table Tennis Academy, based on his performance in the nationals in 1997. Until he turned 18, he was in Ajmer and would come to Chennai twice a year. Amalraj is a simple, quiet and shy boy who wouldn’t talk to neighbours. He has friends only in the TT circles. Later, when he returned to the city, he joined Southern Railways as ticket examiner and was selected to play for the Indian Railway team. Now, he is an officer with ONGC.

Your daughters are also State-level players. Did the three practise together?

My daughters – Mary Benita and Mary Judith – are younger than Amalraj. They learnt a lot about the sport from Amalraj when he came home for vacations. I was the first coach for the three..

What are your plans for Amala Annai Table Tennis Academy?

The Academy was opened in 2010 from the first floor of my house in Pulianthope to train underprivileged children. Apart from Amalraj, I am helped by my daughter and their cousin Richard Stanley to run the Academy. Nearly 40 children are currently training at the Academy and we want to produce more ‘Amalrajs’.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 9:38:17 PM |

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