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In what was a rarest of rare for table tennis, three connected with the sport were honoured for the successive year. Congratulations to the awardees. The entire table tennis fraternity and TTFI feel proud of what the sport has achieved in recent times.


On the National Sports Day (August 29, 2019), President Ram Nath Kovind presented Harmeet Desai with the Arjuna Award, while Coaches Sandeep Gupta and the Arup Basak received the Dronocharya and Dhyan Chand Awards, respectively, from him at a glittering function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday.


Last year, too, Indian paddlers G. Sathiyan and Manika Batra received the Arjuna Awards for their stupendous performance in the 2018 CWG (Gold Coast) and Asian Games (Jakarta), while A. Srinivasa Rao, who received the Dronacharya, became the second to be bestowed with the honours after Bhawani Mukherjee. In addition, the 2018 also saw iconic A. Sharath Kamal getting the Padma Shri—a first for the sport.


When table tennis gets such national recognition for the second consecutive year, it bodes well for the game. And it goes without saying the trio that received the awards this year fully deserved the honours.



Take, for instance, Harmeet Desai. He has, over a period of time, shown maturity and had been instrumental in India reaching the Champions Division of the World Championships with his consistent performance a couple of years ago. His and the team’s consistency helped India retain their position yet again.


Recently, the Surat paddler brought India from the brink to help India win men team gold at the Commonwealth Championships at Cuttack in July, while adding men singles gold to his kitty with an exceptional display of skills in the final against favourites G. Sathiyan.


All these made him a favourite candidate for the Arjuna and it was not a surprise when the panel whole-heartedly recommended his name for the award.


Coach Sandeep Gupta, who became the third Dronacharya, richly deserved the honour after having churned out two Olympians—Neha Aggarwal and Manika Batra. The latter had helped herself and India with an individual and team gold in Gold Coast and a mixed bronze at Jakarta in what was a golden year for Indian table tennis.



What is special about Gupta is his eye for spotting talent and nurturing it. His success can be gauged from the number of national and international medallists that has come from his stable. Hundreds of paddlers, training under him, have benefited personally besides winning accolades for India. The level of consistency he has achieved makes him the best in business today. Finally, justice was delayed but not denied!



The genial Arup Basak, on the other hand, has been a good player himself but could not attain much glory in his playing days. Now the recognition for his lifetime achievement has come at the right time. He has always had the knack of bringing out the best from paddlers and, as a coach of Team India, has displayed his acumen on several occasions to pull individuals and the team out of despair. The Dhyan Chand Award should do a world of good to the HPCL employee personally, while motivating his clan to emulate him.





Secretary General