Goa Challengers begins its maiden campaign in Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) tournament against Mavericks Kolkata on July 27. Sports Editor AUGUSTO RODRIGUES speaks to India’s No 1 ranked player Archana Kamath, member of the Goa Challengers team, to discover how she excels in sports and academics and her aspirations.
Q: Rarely does one come across a sportsperson who is a topper in sports as well as academics. Can you explain how you manage to hold the No 1 TT rank in India and be a top student in your college?
It is a combination of many factors. Sports helps in studies and TT is one sport where one needs focus and concentration and that helps me in my studies. I find it easier to grasp what I have to study and it does not take me time to understand what I am learning. I also have very supportive parents and a very supportive education set up. The college where I study supports me totally. I have no problem of attendance or anything related to my college, so that gives me a platform to strive better in sports.
Q: What does it feel to be India’s No1 ranked player?
It feels good. It is a nice milestone to achieve but it is also tough to maintain the ranking. There is a lot of hard work involved. I have a long way to go, but I keep reminding myself of the efforts put in by other TT legends of the past who sacrificed a lot despite the odds. They are my inspiration.
Q: Did you expect to be the number one ranked player at the age of 19 when you started playing TT?
I started playing TT as a hobby. I remember my father had taken me to his brother’s house in Mangalore where they had a TT table. That is when I first played and later on I used to tag along with my brother. My liking for the game began then and it has not stopped. As I kept enjoying the game, I realised the potential of a player in me.
Q: This is your third year in UTT and your first with Goa Challengers. What is going to be the difference?
I have Konkan roots. My father is from Mangalore and I have been visiting our temple in Goa every year from young age. It is not just me but my family is connected with Goa and to be part of Goa Challengers is like being part of Goa. This is what makes it exciting for me.
Q: TT is not as popular as other sports because it does not have financial dividends like others. Did this factor never stifle you?
No. Both my parents are doctors and they always encouraged us to be actively involved in sports. Sports helps physically and mentally. I never thought of sports in terms of finance but now that Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) has started, the turnaround in TT is big. I think it is not just offering a future to players but an exposure to increase the standard of the game.
Q: I read that your mother normally travels along with you during your tours. How does she manage if she is a doctor?
My mother has stopped practice and my father looks after the clinic. I think they have sacrificed a lot and that is why I am where I am today. My parents have played a big role in shaping my TT career.
Q: You are ranked 147th in the world today. Do you aim to be the No 1?
The goal to be world No 1 is there, but to reach there I still have a lot to practice and I have to prepare at the highest level. I know I can be the best if I work in that direction and that is what I am doing.
Q: Competition is necessary to excel and it is achieved through exposure. Do you find India offers competition and exposure?
Competition in India is very high. The level of play has increased in India and UTT has given the game a different colour as we are now able to interact with foreign players. Not just play against them but with them and see how they train. I think this has made a huge impact on TT in India. UTT has played a big role in terms of exposure to players from India.
Q: There was a time when TT was vibrant in Goa. Today, there are players with talent who go out of the limelight because they are torn between studies and sports. You have proved the two can go together. What is your message to youngsters in Goa?
Please continue playing because sports will always help. It will never be an obstacle to studies. In fact, sports can help you do better in studies. It is one’s approach that is important.
July 27 V Mavericks Kolkata
July 31 V Chennai Lions
Aug 2 V Dabang Delhi
Aug 5 V U Mumba
Aug 7 V Puneri Paltan
All matches start at 7 pm and
Telecast live by Star Sports