The Doyen of Table Tennis
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Mouma Das’s tryst with table tennis (TT) began when she was barely 10 years old. “I was quite a dushtu (Bangla word for naughty) child. So just to keep me occupied my parents admitted me in a club,” laughs Das during an interaction with Entrepreneur India. “It was there that I got introduced to table tennis, developed a liking for the game and soon started playing regional tournaments. That is how it all began.”
Ace TT player Das, who originally hails from Kolkata (West Bengal), made her international debut in 1997 and there has been no stopping her since. She has represented and won several accolades for the country.
She won her first senior national title in 1999 and has a total of 19 medals to her name in Commonwealth Games (CWG), making her the Indian player with most medals in Commonwealth TT games and championships.
Das has also set the record of most participation in world championship events by any Indian and Asian TT player with a total of 17 tournaments played internationally.
Recognising her achievements, the government awarded Das Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, on Republic Day this year. She was awarded the Arjuna award, second highest sporting honour, in 2013.
On Overcoming the Challenges Women Face in Sports
Of the many challenges women in sports face, Das says the opportunity for international exposure is limited. “It's not easy for women sportspeople to go abroad for training or tournaments.” That said, Das has always pushed boundaries. “I have always seen challenges as an opportunity towards the next step of success. I accept challenges as lessons and try to overcome them with my dedication and love towards my sports.”
So, what does a typical training day look like in Das’s schedule? “I do eight hours of rigorous training for a minimum five days in a week,” she says. It typically includes about six hours of practise on the table and two hours of warm up and exercise spread between morning and evening schedules.
Das has been training under Jayanta Pushilal, also known for training ace players Arup Basak and Ambika Radhika Suresh, since the beginning of her career. “He treats me like his own daughter,” she says. Das is quick to give credit to two other coaches who have played a major role in her TT career—Peter Engel from Germany and Debabrata Chakraborty whom she met before the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“Mr Engel changed my concept of age in sports. He would always say age is just a number that can never be bigger than your passion for the game,” Das says.
The last tournament that the 37-year-old played was Senior National TT Championship in Cuttack in Early 2019. In the same year, she became a mother which kept her off the training arena for a good one year. Just as Das was gearing to get back on the ground in early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and halted all sports tournaments around the world. “The Padma Shri accolade has motivated me to get back in the field stronger.”
Sharing her take on winning and losing, Das says she cherishes all her winning moments, but never lets defeat get to her. “I draw lessons from every loss and that helps me do better the next time.”