From aversion to obsession

From aversion to obsession

From aversion to obsession

Very early into the conversation, Kushi V exudes an air of calmness. The promising table tennis player from Karnataka has kick-started the new season in a splendid manner and the self-confidence is evident as she speaks about her immediate goals.

Enjoying a rich vein of form, the 16-year-old has ruled the previous two State-ranking tournaments by bagging five titles. If Kushi won all the trophies on offer – the junior, youth and women’s – at the 49th Canara Union State-ranking meet last week, she was once again the best player at the MSSTTA meet last week, triumphing in two categories.

The Bengaluru girl annexed the junior and women’s titles to take her overall gold tally to 37 at this level. At the State Olympic Games in Dharwad in February, Kushi rose to the top of the podium in the singles’ and doubles’ sections.

An established name at the State level, Kushi is working hard on taking her game to the next level at the national competitions. The bronze-medal effort in the junior singles’ section of the all-India ranking tournament at Indore last month is an encouraging sign for the youngster, who is currently ranked eighth in the country.

Her tryst with table tennis began at seven and Kushi has taken big strides since then. With a total of 108 medals from various State-ranking meets, Kushi’s potential is unquestionable. However, her hunger for greater success will play a major role in her career in the coming days, feels the youngster.

Coached by former national silver medallist Krunal Telang at the BNM Institute of Technology, Kushi seemed to have learnt the importance of staying cool under pressure situations. Just five years ago, however, all was not well in Kushi’s world. Suffering from poor form, the frustrated paddler had decided to quit the sport.

“In 2011, I won a slew of titles and was brimming with confidence. But the very next year, I was struggling to win even first-round matches. It was a very difficult phase and I wanted to stop playing table tennis. But my parents kept faith in me and that’s when I joined Krunal sir,” she says.

It was not the first time that Kushi had turned her back towards a sport which she now cannot stop playing. “I was never interested in table tennis. When my father decided to bring the table tennis board home, I remember locking the door and hiding the keys. Initially I made a lot of fuss,” she recollects.

While she owes it to her first coach Ananth Raghavan for strengthening her basics, it is under Krunal that Kushi has grown as a player. The veteran coach says he was impressed with Kushi right from her Sub-junior days. “This girl was in my mind since she was very young. She is the most disciplined player in Karnataka. When she first joined me we had to make drastic changes to her game. She used to jump a lot and would play away from the table. Stability is important and we corrected her game,” he explains.

Krunal narrates an incident of 2014 National championship in Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh that made him believe that she can make a mark at the highest level.

“Karnataka won the team championship gold at the event and Kushi, along with Archana Kamath, clinched the doubles gold in the under-15 category. It was a come-from-behind performance in the team event and the way she recovered to beat couple of top players of the country impressed many. Her top spin backhand and court coverage can trouble the best in the country” he says.

The year has been a breakthrough one for Kushi on the international front. After making her debut in the India Open three years ago, Kushi enjoyed a memorable outing at the Tunisia Open. Along with Selena Selvakumar of Tamil Nadu, she won the bronze in the junior doubles’ section and went on to take the gold in the team event, which also included Selena and Manushree Patil.

It helps that she hails from a sporting family. While father Vishwanath was a university level 400 metres runner, mother Pushpa was a State handball player. “We didn’t have big hopes when she started off. All we wanted was her to indulge in some sport. As she started producing results, we promised her that we will support her completely,” says Vishwanath, who is thankful to Indian Oil Corporation and Green Channel Logistics for the financial support.

For someone whose life revolves around the game, there is hardly any time for other leisure activities. But Kushi isn’t complaining. “I don’t have much time for hobbies. I am happy that I am able to focus on my studies despite the hectic schedule and I thank my school, Deccan International School, for all the support,” says the youngster, who scored 81.33 percent in her 10th board exams.

Kushi is gearing up for the Jordan Open this month end and she is clear of her goals ahead. “I want to represent India at the 2024 Olympics. There are seven years left and I don’t think why it isn’t possible,” she beams.

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