by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer
At six years of age at home in Surat, in Guajarat State, Western India, Manav Vikash Thakkar watched his parents play table tennis at home: He wanted to try himself, after three days he could hit the ball back three times; that was how the fire in the young man from was ignited.
Now he is hoping to celebrate his 18th birthday on Saturday 14th April amongst the top two names on the Under 18 Boys’ World Rankings; also believes he has what it takes to make it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Furthermore, he has a more impending date; with the majority of the senior national team heading to the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, Manav Thakkar has been selected alongside Sanil Shetty as India’s representatives at next month’s Asian Cup in Yokohama.
Undoubtedly, the breakthrough for the young Indian came in 2017 when as an unseeded player at the Polish Junior and Cadet Open, he worked his way to the final; since then, earlier this year in January he rose to the top of the Under 18 Boys’ World Ranking.
Currently, the teenager, supported by Go Sports, an organisation which supports elite sportsmen and sportswomen, is in second spot behind Kanak Jha. He aims to retain that place by playing in Tunisia, a time of the year in which he does not usually compete because of school examinations. However, with the Road to Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games qualification tournament following the Tunisian Junior and Cadet Open, permission has been given to attend.
“I started playing table tennis at six; my parents were playing the game. I told them I wanted to have fun like them. After three days, I started hitting the ball well. It was then I started practising with my coach, Vahed Malubhai. He taught me the basics of the sport.
When I started, I watched Harmeet Desai playing and I found out that he could play very well and he also had sponsors supporting him. So I realised that one can make it through table tennis. I decided to join PSPB TT Academy in Ajmer where Harmeet Desai combined playing table tennis and education.
The academy supports me a lot. I attend Mayoor School and I also play for the Academy; this year being my final year in the Academy, I have really enjoyed staying in the hostel and I have learned a lot to become what I am today.
I have always been attached to my parents but now after joining the Academy and playing table tennis, I relate well with people and also do things on my own. I have been good academically, playing table tennis has really helped me because in table tennis, you have to be focused and you need a lot of concentration. It has reflected in my studies because the focus and concentration have helped me to grasp things very fast; these are things that have also helped me in life. Physically, it has made me fitter and my parents are so happy with what I am doing. They are medical doctors but they never stopped me from following my passion
I cannot tell my story without mentioning the support I have been getting from the Table Tennis Federation of India as well as Sports Authority of Gujrat. The Federation has supported me in attending competitions since 2014 when I made my international debut at the China Junior and Cadet Open. Everyone has been supportive.
My dream is to play at the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games and this is a big goal for me in table tennis; This year being my last year competing as a junior player, I am eagerly looking forward to competing at senior tournament from 2019.
In February and March of every year, I don’t usually compete in any competitions but because I want to qualify for Youth Olympic Games, I have had to acquire special permission to be in Tunisia. I believe the Tunisia Junior and Cadet Open will prepare me well for the Youth Olympic Games qualifiers and I believe as the number one seed in the Boys’ Singles, I can claim the title.” Manav Vikash Thakkar
Manav Thakkar greatly admires Sharath Achanta, whom he described as a unique Indian player; Swedish legend, Jan-Ove Waldner, remains his idol in the sport.