CWG performance will change face of Indian table tennis, says CWG 2018 gold medallist Pooja Sahastrabuddhe
The way Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu changed the scenario for badminton, the recent performance in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018 (CWG) will change the face of Indian table tennis, feels Pooja Sahastrabuddhe, ranked as India’s No. 4 in the sport.
Sahastrabuddhe was part of the Indian team which won gold, beating Singapore, on the Gold Coast, Australia, at the Commonwealth Games. Manika Batra, Mouma Das, Sutirtha Mukherjee and Madhurika Patkar were the other members of the team.
“We have beaten top teams like Malaysia and Singapore. Our nine players are in the top 100 of the world. This is quite positive and I am sure table tennis will be a priority sport in India soon,” she said.
Talking about the challenges faced at the CWG, Sahastrabuddhe said, “Compared to other games, I feel that table tennis was more difficult at the CWG, as top teams were in the fray. We were seeded second in the tournament and were under pressure. Last time, India had lost to Singapore in the final, but this time, we managed to beat the best and I feel proud of it.”
“In the semifinal we defeated England, which was a major boost for us. We had a meeting just before the final and our Indian coach Soumyadeep Rai told us that we have already secured the silver medal, but if want to return to India as heroes, we need to do something special. Those words motivated us to give our best and we knocked out mighty Singapore 3-1,” she added.
From Commonwealth Youth Games to Commonwealth Games
Interestingly, 10 years ago, Sahastrabuddhe and her childhood friend Divya Deshpande were on the verge of winning a gold medal in the doubles category in Commonwealth Youth Games, Pune, in 2008, but they lost to Neha Aggarwal and Soumi Mondal.
After that, Sahastrabuddhe won several national and international medals, but this was her second Commonwealth medal after the Commonwealth Youth Games.
“Though winning a gold at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) is something to be proud of, the silver medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG) holds a special place in my heart. The journey from that silver to this gold medal was quite challenging. I faced several ups and downs and I feel grateful for the support from my family, my husband and his family,” Sahastrabuddhe said.
Sahastrabuddhe shifted her base to Pune after marrying former International table tennis player Aniket Koparkar in 2016.
Support is needed before the achievement
Players receive cash prizes after they win medals at the international level, but Sahastrabuddhe feels that the actual need for money is before the tournament.
“To get an entry in the Indian team, you need to perform consistently and your world ranking is also considered. For that, a player is required to play at least 12-14 international tournaments.
“These days, the government is quite supportive and they take care of three-four tournaments, but the player has to manage the remaining tournaments on their own. At this point, financial support is required,” she said.
“I am thankful to Lakshya, a Pune-based sports NGO for supporting me in my journey,” Sahastrabuddhe added.