by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa Press Officer
The 25 year old was one of 20 athletes to receive the award, the presentations being made by Ram Nath Kovind, the Indian President
Born in Chennai, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran who graduated as an Information Technologist from St. Joseph’s College of Engineering, Anna University, in Chennai, has combined sport and education.
Sathiyan Gnanasekaran reflects.
“Table tennis is my passion. It has given me a sense of self discipline, taught me lot of things to make better decisions because in table tennis you have to make quick decisions on court. Team spirit, leadership and also never give up, keep fighting till the very end. I really love the speed of the game and skills involved.
I was five, my dad was working abroad; my mother wanted me to take part in an individual sport as I was very hyperactive. A table tennis centre had just started close to my house; that is how I started playing the game.
It was quite difficult to manage both sports and studies but I always felt both complemented each other; good planning and determination helped me to accomplish in both fields successfully. The skills in table tennis are so unique; it is a sport which you need mental and physical fitness; make quick decisions with good reflex and fast movements.
Each day between 6.45 am and 8.00 am, I do my fitness training, I take my breakfast at 8.30 am. I go to practice from 9.00 am to 12.00 noon. In the evening, I perform my reflex training and hand eye co-ordination exercises from 4.30 pm to 5.00 pm; then I go into another round of practice from 5.00 pm to 8.00pm. I have a proper fitness trainer and dietician; I eat more protein during training. During matches, I eat more bananas and nuts.
I think I have achieved one of my dreams, which is getting the Arjuna Award, next I want to win an Olympic medal. These were the two things my father also wanted me to achieve. In sport, my idol is Roger Federer. I really like the way he plays tennis with ease and elegance.
Also the support of my parents has been huge. They have supported me a lot from my childhood; accompanied me to all tournaments during my childhood. They always encouraged me when I lost a match and made me pursue my passion. I am really thankful to them and I dedicate this national award to my father who is no longer with us but I am sure he is seeing me and showering his blessings.
Sometimes I feel really bad when I lose that I don’t sleep. I try to switch off sometimes by listening to some good music and then come back by watching videos in order to learn what went wrong and try to get better next time. For example, at the Asian Games, I lost two matches against Chinese Taipei and we lost the team match. I was very upset and could not sleep that day. I discussed with my coach, who advised me to come out of it and play the next day as every day is a fresh day. I then went on to win two matches against Japan and create history for my country
I have not thought about what will happen when I finish playing. Yes for sure I want to give back to the sport; maybe by taking up coaching or do any administration work related to table tennis.
I always love when young ones take up any sport as they are the future but I feel I am also quite young now; with my social media and interviews I always encourage youngsters to take bold decisions and play sport as it teaches you many things. I feel with my performance and determination in the last few years, it will have definitely inspired many youngsters to take up sport. Follow your dream, set a goal, work hard and work smart for it. Have a proper roadmap and definitely nothing is possible if you believe strongly.
My favourite player in Africa is for sure Quadri Aruna because I really love his attacking style and athletics skills on court.
I still feel I have a lot left in me as I am quite young. I think I will play at least for next 12 to 13 years more.”