Table tennis maestro Mamta Prabhu out of retirement and into the arena of champions

Former international table tennis player Mamta Prabhu, who had put down her racquet in 2012, made a dream comeback last year by winning the Juhu Vile Parle Gymkhana club (JVPGC) all-Mumbai table tennis tournament in August.
Following a brief retirement, this year, Mamta Prabhu is aiming for bigger accolades and eyes a top-five finish in India.(Rahul Raut/HT PHOTO)
Following a brief retirement, this year, Mamta Prabhu is aiming for bigger accolades and eyes a top-five finish in India.(Rahul Raut/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Jun 11, 2018 04:17 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Pune | ByAshish Phadnis, Pune

Former international table tennis player Mamta Prabhu, who had put down her racquet in 2012, made a dream comeback last year by winning the Juhu Vile Parle Gymkhana club (JVPGC) all-Mumbai table tennis tournament in August. 2017 ended on a winning note for her when she grabbed the women’s title in the 48th inter-district and 79th Maharashtra state championship table tennis tournament in Pune. 

This year, the 35-year-old is aiming for bigger accolades and eyes a top-five finish in India. 

“It’s not an easy job as the competition level of table tennis has tremendously improved. Indian players are doing a great job at the international level and Commonwealth Games is a classic example of the same. Even the speed and intensity of the sport has increased over the past five years. However, with the ample amount of experience I have, I’m confident that I can manage the challenge,” said Mamta, on the sideline of season’s first state ranking table tennis tournament at Symbiosis Spa, Prabhat road. 

Before her earlier retirement, Mamta was ranked India’s fourth in 2010 and had slipped down to rank ten in 2012. 

‘Acute’ retirement

After her retirement, Mamta completely focused her attention on her job - marketing manager at Dena Bank, Thane. She was so steadfast that she chose to not play even a friendly tournament in the time period. 

“I had quit completely and had no intention to make a comeback. But my office wanted me to play some inter-bank tournaments and some well-wishers also motivated me to pick up the racquet again. Before entering the arena for the second time, I had to work a lot on my fitness. I was totally out of practice and had put on weight. It took me several months to get back in the rhythm. Now, I feel I am ready to face any challenge,” she said. 

Trial by fire

Talking about the changes she observed after a gap of five years, she said, “The biggest change was the ball. The federation has shifted to bigger plastic balls from the celluloid balls we used to play with. It was challenging to get used to this change, as now, there are lot of rallies and you need extra fitness and strength to win them. Even the rubbers have changed. Several players use long pimpled rubber and you need to control the spin, which is quite challenging,” added Mamta, who was part of the Indian team which won silver at the Delhi Commonwealth Games, 2010. India had lost to Singapore in the final in the tournament. 

Age is not a factor

The Thane player feels that age is just a number and is not worried about the fresh legs. 

“Table tennis is more about technique and tactics. At the international level, there are quite a few players who are doing well despite crossing 40. So I don’t see age as an issue. I am quite inspired by our boxing queen Mary Kom. She is 35 and yet, has been continuously competing at the international level. It’s not easy to wake up early in the morning and get hit on the face by your opponent. Yet, she is doing it and winning medals. I feel table tennis is much easier compared to that,” added Mamta. 

Change in coaching

Mamta used to train with former international player and Olympian Kamlesh Mehta. However, it wasn’t possible for her to continue with him as Mehta is currently busy organising table tennis leagues and promoting the sport in the country. But he still advises her occasionally.

Motivation

Shailaja Gohad, who runs Boosters Academy in Mumbai since 1995, motivated Mamta to make a comeback. The academy has produced several international players including Madhurika Patkar, Siddhesh Pandey and Pooja Sahastabuddhe.

“She took lot of effort to facilitate my comeback. She motivated me and instilled belief in me that I can be as good or better than before,” added Mamta.

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