by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Always she is accompanied by her mother, Reshma.
Diya Parag Chitale spoke to Olalekan Okusan, the ITTF-Africa Press Officer
The journey has been amazing from the beginning. The focus over the last two years has been to learn the basics well from a long term perspective. It is similar to going to school to learn the basics. It all started in May 2014 with a 25 day camp at Zhengding – the Table Tennis training base in China.
It was then that I realised – if the basics are perfect, I can go a long way. With this objective in mind I have spent a lot of time over the last two years in Frankfurt, Germany training under Peter Engel along with my Indian Coach, Sachin Shetty.
The kind of emphasis on the minute details is what makes all the difference. Winning the Bronze medal in the ITTF World Hopes Week & Challenge in July 2015 thereby getting selected in the ITTF World Hopes Team to becoming the National Champion in India in December 2016 in the Under-15 category – it has been a very satisfying period.
Fortunately my mom, Reshma is always with me when I travel to Germany for my training. It would have been very difficult if she were not there with me. She takes care of all my needs while I am there so that I can focus entirely on my training.
She is my friend, philosopher and guide in Germany. She helps me with all my studies there so that I am prepared for my exams that I need to appear for when I am back in Mumbai.
I do miss my dad at times when I am away for long periods but I am sure it is going to be worth it in the long term. Coach Sachin Shetty, who regularly travels with me to Germany, plays multiple roles and also ensures that I don’t feel lonely while I am away from my friends and family.
The easiest part for me as a player has been to train for five to six hours on a daily basis because I enjoy that completely. The challenges are being away from home (family and friends) for long periods, managing the different climate conditions since they vary a lot, eating the right kind of food and staying away from chocolates since nutrition plays a big role, focusing on my physical fitness which will ensure a long term career for me, managing the mental aspect in difficult match situations and getting the same kind of training when I am back in India.
verall – to manage regular training, diet, physical training, mental conditioning, extensive travel and still keep track of studies and examinations is the challenge. Fortunately, I have the right support system to handle all this.
Peter Engel in Germany and Sachin Shetty in India handle the training part with regular inputs from experts like Kamlesh Mehta and Sandeep Gupta. Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) has been very supportive at all times.
Team Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) is a huge support and through their regular interactions and check-ups, they ensure that I equally focus on all the aspects and not just the game. Dr. Falguni Shah (Nutrition), Dr. Chandan Poddar (Physical Fitness) and Dr. Reema Shah (Mental Conditioning) have played a big role in managing my overall well-being. Khar Gymkhana provides the best possible infrastructure for me to practice at the same level when I am back in Mumbai, India. Nothing would be possible without the constant support and motivation from all my teachers in my school, Arya Vidya Mandir, Bandra West, led by Mrs. Jyoti Kumar.
Every time I go to Germany I come back having learned more, leading to an improvement in my game. Even the most minute aspect is given importance in order to make the basics of my game perfect.
Having Peter as a Coach has brought about a huge improvement in my technique. Being in Germany I get to practise with a variety of players which builds my confidence. I am also participating in the German League which is a different level of exposure. Playing with multiple times European Champions and Olympians of different countries is an unbelievable experience.
Peter has taught me the importance of formulating a strategy and following it depending on the opponent. Overall the entire experience in Germany with Peter as my Coach has given me the confidence to play my best.
I am fortunate to have parents who are going all out to ensure that I get to follow my passion. Whatever I need to fulfil my objective is available to me. My parents have always kept my interest as the priority and have made a lot of sacrifices – be it their career or their priorities. I would also like to mention the sacrifice made by Sachin Shetty – being with me away from his family to ensure that I get the best possible exposure.
It is their support that makes me go all out and try my best every day. The biggest thing for me is that in a country where Education is often given priority over Sport, my parents have supported my dream of making it big in sports and that too when my parents are involved in Education as their daily work. This gives me the confidence that Sports can be a primary career option.
Having started early gives me the confidence that I can go a long way. Obviously I have a long way to go but a good beginning always helps in providing motivation. I need to move on in a very well planned manner which is being worked on by all the experts.
All that I am focusing on, focus on the process, learn well and play your best every day.
India is a country where cricket was the only sport that was given importance till a few years back. However, this situation has changed over the years and other sports are also picking up.
One big reason for this is the emergence of some iconic players from India in these other sports at the world level. These players have given me the confidence that it is possible to perform against the best in the world and win laurels for the country. My dream is to be one of such icons in Table Tennis and win medals at the highest possible level for India while still staying a humble human being.