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Lack of Support and Deplorable Condition of the Sport Forces Para-Table Tennis Player to Quit

To say that life's tough for Indian sports persons is surely an understatement. The players, be it of any sport, go through the rigmarole of constant financial crunch, inadequate government support and then failure at tournaments. The crisis worsens when one talks about para athletes in the country

Madhav Agarwal | News18 Sports

Updated:January 16, 2018, 12:49 PM IST
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Lack of Support and Deplorable Condition of the Sport Forces Para-Table Tennis Player to Quit
To say that life's tough for Indian sports persons is surely an understatement. The players, be it of any sport, go through the rigmarole of constant financial crunch, inadequate government support and then failure at tournaments. The crisis worsens when one talks about para athletes in the country

New Delhi: To say that life's tough for Indian sports persons is surely an understatement. The players, be it of any sport, go through the rigmarole of constant financial crunch, inadequate government support and then failure at tournaments. The crisis worsens when one talks about para athletes in the country.

Suvarna Raj, a two-time Thailand Para Table Tennis Open medalist, has been virtually forced into quitting the sport. After nearly 10 years of struggle to see the condition of the sport improve, the 34-year-old has finally succumbed. Her quitting table tennis has highlighted the problem of lack of support for para athletes in the country.

After devoting her life to table tennis, Raj has decided to try her hand at athletics—the most popular para sport in the country, and where Indians have won medals internationally. Knowing that it's not going to be an easy switch, it's a well thought move by her, as Raj had received training in athletics till her high school. Also, the facilities and infrastructure in athletics are way better than in any para sport in the country, that has raised her hopes. Also, the unfortunate part about Raj's journey as a sports person was that she did not make the headlines when she brought laurels for the country, but when she was forced to sleep on floor of the train while travelling in Nagpur-Nizamuddin Garib Rath. She was allotted an upper-berth, and the co-passengers refused to swap seats with her.

"I am not associated with table tennis, and for good. I think I will make a move to athletics, but I'm not fully sure of that. The reason I'm thinking about it is because I've trained in athletics during my school days, and I think I can do well in the throws.

"I have waited for the situation to improve for way too long. Ever since my first camp during 2010 Commonwealth Games, there has been no change at all. In fact I've had to use my own money to participate in tournaments, that has not helped my case. The last national level para table tennis tournament happened way back in 2012, so the condition is pretty bad," Raj told News 18 Sports.

Always the one to speak her mind, Raj has had her share of problems with the TTFI (Table Tennis Federation of India) and feels that is another reason why she has to quit the sport. Despite being one of the top players, she was overlooked for selection for many international tournaments, only because she raised her voice about the prevailing deplorable conditions.

"There were times when I was overlooked for selection for tournaments. TTFI and SAI (Sports Authority of India) had no logical reasons for my exclusion from the team. Only recently two teams were sent to Jordan, but I wasn't kept in the loop. SAI officials agreed to their mistake and assured me that they will look into the matter. But still nothing came out of it, as expected," she added.

Raj made another shocking revelation that they haven't had a proper para table tennis coach till date, who knows the intricacies of the game and can guide them whenever they're going wrong.

"In my career I have not seen an expert coach for us. It is players only who come and coach us, that too used to happen only before a tournament. Rest of the times we were left to ourselves."

But then, having kept the tough times behind her, Raj vouches that she will bounce back and perform well at this year's Asian and Commonwealth Games.

"I am being really optimistic right now. All I want to do is play, and bring glory for my country. Commonwealth and Asian Games are some time away, and I have the confidence to not just qualify, but bring medals too," she concluded.

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| Edited by: Madhav Agarwal
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