Living a golden dream!

Far from the city, the town of Siliguri, in April, rubbed its eye to an unthinkable achievement of its teenaged paddlers. Soumyajit Ghosh and Ankita Das had pipped the national seniors for places in the London Olympics and the small, sleepy town bustled into ceaseless celebrations. The two 18-year-olds were greeted by a procession that snaked its way to their homes.

Siliguri decked itself with their huge posters, as Soumyajit and Ankita were paraded in an open jeep, their necks adorned by garlands. “It was no less than winning an Olympic medal,” laughed Ankita. “The mayor, State leaders all came to congratulate us. It was grand.”

The moment lasted for days, so much so that Ankita recalled: “Once I was travelling with my father on his bike and he jumped the signal. He was to be fined but the policeman saw me and let him go. My father joked that he would break the signal everytime I was with him!”

A rather reticent Soumyajit admits things have changed ever since they have qualified for the London Games. “Table tennis has always been very popular in Siliguri. A lot of players are coming from there. Today people there are proud of us,” he smiled.

Training hard

Both players had trained at their hometown academy of former national champion Montu Ghosh at home. While Soumyajit has been training for nearly 11 months at the Peter Karlsson academy in Sweden under an International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) scholarship programme, Ankita, who also got the scholarship but didn’t go, is under the tutelage of Ghosh and chief national coach Bhawani  Mukherjee.

The London qualification was a “surprise” for both and each has a tale to tell of the Asian Olympic qualification held at Hong Kong in April, 2012 where they qualified for Olympics. Ankita had to clash with K Shamini for the qualifying spot from the South Asia Zone as both had finished third in their respective groups.

“I was very upset. Though I had beaten her before, she led in head-to-head clash. I called Montu di and she asked me play my natural game. I was shocked after beating her,“ gushed Ankita, who can’t wait to meet Saina Nehwal in London. Soumyajit defeated national champion A Amalraj in the to qualify.

“There was a situation where I was out of contention. But I beat Amalraj in seven games and then a Vietnamese player before beating Amalraj again. I never expected to qualify for the Olympics. It still looks like a dream,” he said.

The two BA students are focussing on their physical fitness ahead of the Olympics and left for China on Saturday night for training from July 1-18th. Soumyajit said: “My training in Sweden also has helped me a lot. The coaches there have been really fine-tuned my game. In China we will get the opportunity to train and spar with various players. I will be working on my physical aspect.”

Ankita concurred “ I am looking to shed 5-6 kgs. I am also meditating to calm myself. I have broken seven racquets so far but I am improving. In China, we are hoping to play against more left handers.”

Ankita and Soumyajit admitted to having a tough time against the table tennis power houses from Asian region like China and Korea. “During our World Junior Championship bronze win we defeated a higher ranked Korean team. But we fancy our chances against the Europeans.”
The pressure will once again be high on them in the Olympics. The stage may be new for the two friends but their eagerness to prove themselves will take them far beyond their small ambit of Siliguri.

Comments (+)