Paddling his way to glory

For most teenagers, a routine day would involve getting ready for school, some game time in the evening followed by homework and studies. Education, without a doubt, takes precedence.

For the talented 13-year-old table tennis player Sujan Bharadwaj, who has been making quite an impression ever since he picked up the racquet out as a five-year-old, life revolves around the sport with books taking a backseat.

The eighth standard student of Sri Kumaran Children's Home wakes up at 4:30 am and heads straight to the Sree Kanteerava Stadium for a fitness session with respected athletics coach V R Beedu. He then attends school before shooting off to Mudaliar Seva Sangam Table Tennis Academy in Rajajinagar at 5 pm for a 4-5 hour table tennis session with coach Aloysius Sagayaraj.

This grinding routine which Sujan follows to the hilt for five days a week -- Saturday is totally devoted to table tennis with only Sunday offering space for a game of cricket or football -- has seen him rack up nearly 40 titles over the last five years.

His first major breakthrough came in the 2015 State Championships where he bagged the Sub-junior title. He wore the cadets' crown the following year and showed he can compete with the best from the country by clinching a silver in the national championship (cadet category).

Last year, Sujan won the Sub-junior state crown for the second time and impressed at the nationals as well, winning the silver for the second straight time. 

"He is a very talented kid who lives and breathes table tennis," said Sagayaraj. "He is very receptive. I train so many talented kids at the academy and he is as good as anyone of them. I have no doubt he will win a national title someday."

Sagayaraj felt the main reason behind Sujan's rise is his fearlessness. "At the academy I make him play against really strong players with some of them twice his age. But he never gets flustered. He fights tooth and nail with them. That has really made him stronger.

"His only weakness was poor body strength. Being a vegetarian, he wasn't strong. He found it hard to generate power in his shots. But the kid has sought the advice of a dietician and now works on improving his body strength in the morning. I have to thank his parents -- Ravi Shankar and Ashwini -- for being very encouraging and allowing him to nurture his dream."

Sujan, who got inspired to take up the sport after watching his brother Vipin play, says his goal is to compete at the Olympics. "TT is on the rise now. There are so many inspiring stories in the recent surge of the sport. I want to compete at the Olympics -- that's my dream. I want to win a national championship too."

Given his hard work and commitment, Sujan really has the potential to unlock his dreams.

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Paddling his way to glory

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