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The highs and lows of TT through the eyes of Mapsekar

AUGUSTO RODRIGUES | NT

Panaji

Shantesh Mapsekar finished the 2017 Table Tennis calendar as the second ranked cadet player of India. He was nowhere in the Table Tennis federation of India (TTFI) rankings the following year, as his father Swapnil could not find the financial resources to see him through the season. Yet, the 13 year old ping pong player from Mapusa has kept the flame of success alive in him.

“I won my first tournament when I was 8 years old at the BPS Club in Margao and it is from then that I began to believe that one day I will be the best player in India. Not being able to play at the national level hurt me. But it was temporary because I knew my father would be able to bounce back and re-start taking me all over the country to participate once again,” says Shantesh when asked to explain the feeling of missing competitive table tennis after coming close to being the best cadet player of India.

“I spent a lot of money taking my son to participate in all the zonals and national tournaments. I spent close to around Rs 15 to 20 lakh on him. It was just not me spending alone. My family and some friend’s chipped in. Somehow, last year there was a down turn and I could not raise the money required,” says Shantesh’s father, Swapnil, who works for an urban co-operative
bank.

At 13, Shantesh has the height and the reach many Table Tennis players aspire.

“I study for two hours and play for around five hours every day. I do most of my practise at home and go to a TT academy because I do not get any players in Mapusa to practise against,” claims Shantesh whose father affirms his son is a good student.

“How he does in studies is no problem because he is an intelligent boy. He is not worried about his grades but enjoys studying. But, his mind is on TT and that is why I have created all the facilities for him at home in Mapusa. I have even purchased robotic machines for him,” claims Swapnil whilst asserting his son has it in him to be a champion.

Shantesh has the talent and the will to strive harder. He is capable of getting his India rankings back if he develops himself more, physically and mentally. He still has the smile of an angel and the body of a sweet brat ready to explore.

 “I get up at 6 in the morning and go back to sleep by 11 pm. I practise for around five to six hours a day but what I miss the most is competition. There is no one in Mapusa I can play with. It is different when I play out of Goa because there I play with some of the best in the country. It helps me develop my own game,” admits Shantesh who thinks Arun Naik and Diljeet Verekar are the two people who nurtured the love for table tennis in him.

“My son was selected to be part of PSCB after the national finals in 2017. They had decided to put him in an academy in North India but at that time he did not want; he said he wanted to be home,” admits his father whilst recounting his sons exploits at the national level in 2017.

Shantesh represented India in the cadet category during the 2017 ITTF World Junior Circuit. He won four silver medals and a bronze during his pursuits in 2017.

“TT is all about money today. You have the money and your son will bloom. There are no TT coaches in Goa. To get one, I had to pay and they do not come cheap. I used to pay a coach Rs 30,000 a month two years ago. I could not afford it the next year. However, that does not mean I am going to give up on my son,” says Swapnil.

“The second ranked TT player of the country today is an IIT. There is a lot of money in the sport and that is why a lot of people are switching to TT. In football or cricket, it is about shooting a ball or hitting a ball. TT is a different game. One kick or hit can make you like football or cricket. TT takes you lot longer,” admits Swapnil who exudes confidence in his son’s abilities.

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