By Neha Aggarwal
“I want to win an Olympic Gold for India”, said the bright eyed Archana.
Making her debut in the international arena in 2014, Archana has made a strong presence at the junior level. Winner in Junior Girls’ Singles at the 2016 Morocco Junior & Cadet Open, semi-finalist at the 2016 Spanish Junior & Cadet Open, she is currently ranked 37 in the Girls’ singles as per the January 2017 ranking. At Indore, she is seeded eighth, and is undoubtedly the hope of the host nation.
The soldier inside
Archana started playing table tennis at the age of nine. “I visited my uncle’s house during my summer vacations and he introduced me and my brother to the game. I never knew what the sport was all about. Initially, I did not like the game but my brother was very passionate. He always encouraged me to go for training. Soon, I found myself hooked to the game and now I cannot stop!” says Archana.
“For the last 3-4 years I have been training like a professional” she continued.
In 2014 she started her training in Germany under coach Peter Engel. When she is free from her commitments for the national team, she plays for the club TSV 1909 Langstadt. “There are so many spectators, some 150 people. It feels really great to play in front of a crowd. The standard of competition is so high. This exposure really helped me improve my game.”
Her aspirations translate to brining glory for her country.
“I want to be a soldier for my country. Sport gives us an opportunity to fight for our country, without sacrificing our lives. I want to be that person. I feel great when the national anthem is played and the flag goes up.”
When asked about her role model, pat came the reply, “My role model is Saina Nehwal, the Indian badminton player. She’s great for what she has done for the country. She works really hard, was injured recently but still got back to win the Malaysian Masters.” Saina Nehwal is an Olympic bronze medalist in badminton for India and is a role model for many young girls.
Archana has an extremly supportive environment. Her parents provide her with all the necessary assistance. “My family is very supportive. Financially, I have never even thought about it. There is zero pressure from anyone or anywhere. All the pressure that exists, comes from what I put on myself.”
She is also supported by Olympic Gold Quest, a non-for profit company in India, which supports the training and preparation of India’s best athletes. “OGQ helps me by providing a physiotherapist, psychologist and a fitness trainer. They also assist me with my expenses to travel for international tournaments.”
When in India, she is trained by her coaches Sagayaraj, Bona Thomas, Nagam Prasad and Deckline Leitao (fitness trainer).
With all these favorable circumstances, Archana puts in her best efforts to win medals for India.
The other side
As a player Archana describes herself as a fierce attacker. “I love to attack, I want to attack every ball. I feel like playing the way men play” said Archana.
But what does she enjoy to do other than training?
“I like to watch movies, Bollywood movies. I love going out with family as well” said the very gracious Archana.
A resident of the city of Bengaluru, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, Archana is a student of liberal arts in Jain University. But her training and matches occupy most of her time.”I hardly go to college. My schedule is very hectic for the next couple of weeks. After this tournament, I will take part in the Indian National Championship and then the Indian Open which is from 16-19th February. From 20th onwards, I have my final exams!”
A very grounded person, Archana is ready to make her appearance at the 2016 ITTF World Junior Circuit Finals here at Indore.
The soldier in her is raring to go, she carries her dreams in her heart, her bright eyes speak volumes about her determination. But more than anything else, its her commitment towards her country, which she exhibits in the table tennis arena.