A grimace appears on her face when she loses a point. Then, determination flows through her eyes and by the time she tosses the ball for her serve it is evident that the next point is hers and the next until she wraps up the match.
This has been the story of Archana Kamath in Goa Challengers quest for the Ultimate Table Tennis title in their maiden appearance; the story of a nineteen-year-old girl who through her efforts and the platform provided to her by Goa Challengers is inching closer to one day be the best Table Tennis player of India.
Archana is confidence personified.
“She is not result oriented. She believes in hard work and enjoying what she is doing. As a child, before leaving home for school to answer her exams she would ask me Mummy are you happy with my efforts? If I said yes, she would go away happily and her results were always excellent,” recollects Anuradha Kamath, Archana’s mother who gave up her medical practice to be with her daughter.
“Most of my confidence comes from the dugout. I look to my colleagues and they are always there to lead me on,” shoots back Archana when asked to explain her confidence during a match.
“I think confidence is about trusting yourself. I still have not learnt to do that every time but I think it is an ongoing process I am learning to feed on,” elaborates Archana when asked to explain her understanding of confidence.
When Archana started the tie for Goa challengers it was her confidence that put the team on a firm saddle and set a benchmark for others to follow. At other times, when it appeared that the tie was slipping out of Goa challengers grasp, it was Archana who saved the blushes for the team and she has been doing it all through confidence.
Archana practises six days a week in Bengaluru with players of her age and elder to her. “I do not have a special sparring partner. Nor do I have a fix set of players that I play with everyday. But, I make it a point to play six hours a day for six days a week,” admits Archana.
“I never had doubts that my daughter would do well in table tennis because as a kid, whatever she did, she did well. She gives her 100% in whatever she chooses to do whether it is in academic or sports. I am not really bothered about how much time she is spending on TT now because I know that at some point she will return to academics,” opined Anuradha when asked whether she would be happier seeing her daughter doing well academically.
“Sports has a time frame. I have no problem if she wants to spend her youth playing Table Tennis and excelling in it. At some point she will continue her studies and decide what she needs to do further. I and my family support her one hundred percent in her quest for excellence,” confesses Archana’s mother.
“I loved sports during my younger days too. But at that time there was a stigma. It was you either studied or became a sportsman. Sports is a profession today and therefore there is no stigma and it is possible to manage both,” feels Anuradha who gave up her medical clinic to be with her daughter on her Table Tennis tours.
“Table Tennis is my passion and money does not come in the picture with passion. Money was never a factor when I decided to pursue this sport and it will never be,” admits Archana when asked to determine the role money plays in her quest to excel in the game.
Archana is pursuing BA Economics Honours through Jain College in Bengaluru and admits she has taken a break from studies for a year and a half. “Table Tennis is my priority now. But, at some point I will continue my studies,” is Archana’s explanation on how she intends juxtaposing between studies and sports.
Archana’s performance in her debut with Goa Challengers was inked with celebrity colours during her first game in UTT against India’s current No 1 Table Tennis player Manika Batra. From then on, the colours have taken different hues of brilliance – each shade, reflecting the colours of a future star. At nineteen, the way is not too long.
“I don’t think I can give it a definite time. It will happen when it has to,” says Archana confidently when asked how long it will take her to be the best in India.