Monday, February 16, 2015

35th National Games- My most memorable tournament!

As I watched the closing ceremony of the 35th National Games in Kerala on DD Sports from home, nostalgia hit my head. Just a week back I was there, in Kochi, where the Table Tennis event was held from 1-5th Feb, where I had the bestest time of my life, and now the games have ended already. Labelled as the “Mini Olympics of India”, the National Games is one such event which brings the best of the sportspersons in the country at one place to witness the best of what India has to offer. The games were very well organised, especially the Games Village at Thiruvananthapuram. Missing out on the last two editions of the National Games, I am glad that I was a part of these games, winning a Gold Medal in Women Doubles and a Bronze in the Women Teams. It was one of the most memorable tournaments for me.
Here’s why
Delhi has always been a pro-academic state; parents don’t encourage their kids to be a professional sportsperson, apart from only golf and tennis. Amidst that, in a Bengal-Tamil Nadu-Maharashtra dominated game of table tennis, nobody ever expected ‘Delhi’ to ever win a ‘Gold Medal’ at the National Games- a tournament where all the players give in their best, purely because of the money incentive. 2, 3 and 5 (lakh) were the only numbers ringing bells in each ones head. There were also a few who just wanted to show that they are still the best, which they did, towards the end. But for me, the motive was just to enjoy table tennis. Not a very usual mindset I for me, because until now, in my entire career I have been playing under the pressure of my own expectations- from self. Also I paired up with Manika Batra for the first time in the women doubles (which I whole heartedly enjoy) so I was only there to have some fun and give my best. And boom, strike GOLD! Winners in the Women Doubles! Indeed, it’s true, that when you go out there on the court to just give in your best and enjoy and just enjoy, think nothing else but the strategies of the game, you do well. Ask yourself, when was the last time you played with a free mind, you ll find yourself doing brilliant on the court. That’s what I exactly did.
I thank god for giving this to me.
Winners in the Women Doubles.

And there are some more memories from the National Games which I would cherish all my life.
Just two days before I was scheduled to leave I got a call from Dr.Sudarshan Pathak from Delhi Olympic Association – “Neha we have chosen you to be the flag bearer for Delhi in the opening ceremony”. I danced. Literally. I danced. As my mother wondered what was wrong with me, I continued to dance.  As I marched in the Greenfield Stadium, Thiruvananthapuram, carrying the flag for Delhi, with the entire contingent following me, my heart danced. Yes, I was on cloud nine, because I did feel on top of—uumm—Delhi!  Kejriwal-like feeling. Maybe. Wondering how Mr.Rathod, or Mr.Bindra or Mr.Sushil Kumar must have felt when they carried India’s flag at the Olympics and the CWG.

A happy moment!

And then I met one of the most handsome men in Indian Politics – Mr.Shashi Tharoor. Having told him that I am a Stephanian and an Olympian, he sounded more excited than me! The flattering voice and the ever charming smile left me mesmerized. Next day I found him tweeting the picture we took the previous night.

 And then again I danced. During the entire tournament we exchanged a series of tweets, of him wishing me good luck and me updating my results. Mr.Tharoor did prove to be lucky, here’s what he tweeted before the finals of the women doubles:

Apart from this, what I loved the most during the games was the team spirit Delhi displayed. I cannot compare it with that of team Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, but a huge hug to my entire team for the wonderful support we gave to each other throughout the tournament. It’s beautiful to see such togetherness in an individual sport of table tennis. And teams and doubles have always been my favourite even more than singles. We managed a Bronze medal in the teams, which itself gave the entire team a huge moral boost!

Happy with the Bronze- Team Delhi!

I wish table tennis was in Thiruvananthapuram, where the games village was, Table Tennis players missed that fun!
But otherwise the 35th National Games 2015 in Kerala will always be very close to my heart!
For some it was money, for some a point to prove, but for me, it was pure happiness and fun and quality Table Tennis all 5 days which I already miss!