Of dedication, international glory & Olympic dream: Journey of table tennis prodigies Avni Dua, Krishiv Garg
Of dedication, international glory & Olympic dream: Journey of table tennis prodigies Avni Dua, Krishiv Garg

Read about the inspiring journey of Avni Dua and Krishiv Garg, two exceptional young Indian table tennis prodigies from Gurugram, as they achieve remarkable success on the international stage and aspire to represent India in future Olympics.

Two exceptional young Indian table tennis players from Gurugram, Avni Dua and Krishiv Garg, have garnered attention and admiration with their outstanding performances in the sport. Both aged 9, these budding athletes have already achieved remarkable success in the recently held World Table Tennis (WTT) Youth Contender in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Avni, who is currently ranked No. 10 in U-11 girls category in India and No.1 in Haryana, bagged a Gold medal at the tournament that took place between July 25-28. Meanwhile, Krishiv, who ranks No. 3 in India in U-11 boys category, reached the quarter-finals of the competition, completing at No. 5 spot. Their dedication, discipline, and rigorous training have propelled them into the limelight, and their journey promises to be an inspiring tale of passion and hard work.

For Coach Kunal Kumar and the Progressive Table Tennis Academy (PTTA), it was like a dream come true. "It is a RISE of PTTA at International Forum. PTTA students Avni Dua and Krishiv Garg had turned out to be game changer for India. Avni Dua won Gold Medal in Under-11 Girls & Krishiv Garg reached quarter-finals Under-11 boys. It is a proud & historical moment for our table tennis fraternity, country and PTTA," noted the academy in their Instagram post.

"Folks, this is just a beginning, many more to come!" the academy added.

Passion, dedication and discipline

In an exclusive interview with Asianet Newsable, Avni and Krishiv's coach Kunal Kumar spoke at length about their journey. Avni Dua, a confident and talented young girl, has displayed exceptional skills in table tennis. "Avni is currently India no. 10 in U-11 girls category. She is Haryana No.1 in U-11 category and Haryana No. 2 in U-13 girls category. She is a very confident girl and has been giving outstanding performance everywhere," said Kunal while speaking about her recent success at the WTT Youth Contender tournament.

Krishiv, a promising young boy, also shines brightly on the table tennis circuit. Currently ranked India No. 3 in the U-11 category and Haryana No. 1, Krishiv displayed remarkable prowess in the competition in Kazakhstan. Despite being 2-2 in the match and leading by a significant margin of 10-4, the pressure of the tournament affected his performance, leading to a quarter-final defeat. Nevertheless, his determination and tenacity assure a bright future for this young athlete.

Academy training and support galore

Talking at length about what goes behind the success of these two budding table tennis talents, coach Kunal shed light into their strict schedules and the support their school, Pragyanam School, Gurugram, provides. "It's just like a school, rigorous training everyday. Both kids are disciplined. Hats off to the parents also. From 6-7 am they have their fitness training. Then 7-9, they have their training session. They go to school after that," the former Bihar state champion said.

"The school has also done a tremendous job. They have provided the children full scholarship based on the performance. School provides them with breakfast, lunch and fruits around 3 PM. They return to the academy by 5 and train till 8 PM and then go home and complete their studies. Every Thursday, we give them a break and every Sunday we have league matches. We provide them with mental support, physiotherapy, etc.," Kunal Kumar added.

The aspirations, challenges and sponsorship sore point

In India, where cricket often dominates the sports scene, the journey of table tennis players faces unique challenges. The academy, with over 150 children, strives to identify talented individuals and provide them with the necessary resources and support. Balancing education and sports remains a primary concern for young athletes and their parents. However, with the changing perception towards table tennis and increased support from the Narendra Modi government, like Khelo India and SAI's TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme) programme, several Indian players have begun making their mark on the international stage.

"It is a collaborated effort on part of the children, parents and the coach. The biggest challenge is balancing education and sports. What will the child do in the future remains one of the main concern. Sports is the only thing where you can go to another country and raise the tricolour with pride," said coach Kunal.

"Now, table tennis is in top 10 sports. Manika Batra won gold medal in the Commonwealth Games. The picture has changed now. Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) concluded recently. It's like IPL in table tennis. Slowly, the culture has started. Nothing is predictable in life. It's not necessary that you work hard for something like IAS and you crack it. Pride is associated with sports and it is something that is driven by passion and dedication," noted Kunal.

Highlighting the importance of dedication in the field of sports, the table tennis coach added, "If you are someone looking to secure a job and live the conventional life, then there is no space for you in sports. Players who go beyond the convention they are the ones who reach at national and international level."

Nothing two-time Olympian Manika Batra's journey, who coach Kunal once trained, he said, "Manika for instance started at the age of 3 and won a medal at the age of 26. It is hardwork of 23 years. It's not possible in one day. Training in India and foreign land is essential. The biggest problem, however, is resources."

"Parents have limited resources. In our country, we get funds when the kid becomes a star. There's a problem of sponsors. I travel with the kids, leaving the academy behind. Main problem is sponsorship. If they get sponsorship, they will progress further. It's not about the money, but it's about funds for their diet, fitness and training, etc.," he noted.

"Sponsorship deals changes the thing. There are tournaments in Bangkok, Jordan, Dubai, etc. For one tournament, there is an expense of about Rs 1 to 1.5 lakh plus coach's additional expense. So parents struggle for this kind of money. But if you don't play in these tournaments, you miss out on world rankings and exposure," Kunal stated highlighting the importance of sponsorship deals for the future of these young table tennis talents.

Looking ahead

The dream of representing India in the Olympics burns brightly in the hearts of these young talents and in the heart of their coach, who once hoped to represent the country at an international level. With dedication, rigorous training, and support from their academy and parents, Avni and Krishiv aspire to participate in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles and the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane, and bring glory to the nation. While the road ahead is long and challenging, their passion and commitment promise to make their dreams come true.

"My target is 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, we want some of our kids to go for it and do our country proud. Players from China, France, Japan are in the World top 50 so why can't Indians. I want them to play in the 28 and 32 Olympics and want them to win a medal for India. It is not a one-day game. It's a journey of years of hardwork," said the PTTA coach.

Avni Dua and Krishiv Garg's remarkable achievements in table tennis at such a young age serve as an inspiration for aspiring athletes across the nation. Their journey is a testament to the power of passion, dedication, and disciplined training. With the right support and resources, India's young table tennis talents are well-equipped to shine on the international stage and bring honour to the tricolor with pride.

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