The journey from Arjuna Awardee to ‘Dronacharya’ of Table Tennis - The Story of Kamlesh Mehta
1st May 1960
Proudly says ‘imd1’ for
Table Tennis, Sport
A twenty-year career with numerous recognitions; Indian Table Tennis player, 8 times National Champion and Arjuna Awardee, Kamlesh Mehta is the recipient of various accolades including the first Maharashtra Government’s Shiv Chhatrapati Award in 1979, twice named as the Best Sportsman by Sports Journalists Association of Bombay and the first Indian to receive the Fair Play Trophy at the Commonwealth Championships in 1989. This former player & coach started playing at a very tender age and has been an icon for generations to come. Having a jewel like him, who has made our country honored at International Championships, is a matter of pride for the entire nation. He is a self-trained player who not only rose to success in a short span with his hard work and dedication but has also bought value addition to this sport.
Team imd1 had a chat with him a few days ago, read on to know him further!
We are keen to know; how was your journey of Table Tennis?
I was born in a progressive Gujarati family. In 1970 during my vacations my father exposed me to table tennis. I enjoyed the game and started with my coaching at ‘The Matunga Gymkhana’ at a very early phase of my life. I did not receive any formal training, it was more of an observation, trial and error method which I followed. Those days, Matunga Gymkhana had lot of top players coming for practice sessions. I watched them & picked up different techniques. There was no professional coaching conducted and we had only summer camps. Overall, it was an experience rich journey.
Beyond Table Tennis
Your Quote for life
Have strong belief in God
Pandurang Shastri Athavale, Prakash Padukone
Pandurang Shastri Athavale
Food I Love
Food I Hate
Brinjal and Bitter Gourd
Had I not been Table Tennis player then…
Some other Sport
Like Vacations at
Favorite Pass time
Listening to music, watching action movies
Favorite Movies / Series
Madrasi masala movies
Favorite Actor / Actress
Amitabh Bachchan, Sridevi
What has been your success mantra?
I strictly follow the teachings of Bhagwat Gita. It advises to work at the best of your ability, believe in yourself and have faith in God. One must keep going and leave the result on the almighty.
What were the hardships & hurdles you encountered and how did you overcome them?
During those days, most of the schools would boost players only at a certain level since they gave more importance to education. In the first year of my sports career, our school wasn’t sent to Interschool Competition as they felt we need to focus on studies. The next year we had a new principal who fortified sport activities and motivating us to participate in various competitions and so my journey started. But we had limitations in terms of equipment’s, infrastructure, coaching & training. There wasn’t any financial support then. We were not given any prize money the way sportsperson of current times is granted. Recognition & appreciation was only on honorary basis.
Success is incomplete without its share of failures. How should one overcome them to move on?
It is Impossible to be successful unless you go through adversities & disappointments. I also had many such occasions where I was not victorious, but my family always supported me. There wasn’t extra joy or sadness on winning or losing. In tough times, I found solace in reading books specially ones written by Pandurang Shastri as that helped me keep motivating myself. I was also fond of reading spiritual & physiological books.
Do you think Table Tennis and its learning’s can be helpful in life even if one does not want to consider it as a career goal?
Sports teaches what classroom training doesn’t. It improves one’s concentration & polishes body language. Planning & thinking process becomes faster. Every child can’t become a champion. Whatever level one reaches he would achieve something. Sport’s makes one physically fit and mentally stronger. It helps in taking Independent decisions. It is up to us how to except losses. Failure & success both will come in one’s life, accepting it or fight against it is an individual’s choice.
Who has been your influencer in your journey so far?
My parents and my wife Monalisa Barua Mehta have been my strong pillars. My wife is a fantastic player and the first women to receive Arjuna Award in Table Tennis from in North India.
Which was “that” moment when you considered yourself as “I Am The 1”?
First when I was selected for Olympics and second when I received the Arjuna Award. That time I experienced major satisfaction and felt “Yes, I Am The 1.”
Could you reflect on the importance of systematic training in Table Tennis?
Systematic training must be incorporated in every activity. Since it involves lot of monitoring, it helps to analyze performance from 360-degree angle. In this bustling 24 hour's time, one must manage other things too, like family, travelling, studies etc. A structured training helps one to manage time and be disciplined.
Technology and scientific training has been changing the way people get trained in Table Tennis. What’s your take?
Many drastic changes have happened in the past few years. Today’s generation is aware of everything about diet, fitness & training. One can record performance and analyze their strength & weakness. There are good trainers available to work on your skill, fitness experts to train your body & scientific support of doctors. The kind of knowledge & information available online & through books has helped individuals in reaching the benchmark performance. The game has evolved and is reaching a benchmark level.
How can one select an ideal ‘Guru’ for getting formal coaching?
It’s very difficult. Coaching has become a secondary career options for those who have performed well and primary career option for those who have been less exposed to opportunities. Only knowledge in sports is not important. There are other factors which makes a person an ideal Guru. The student & the guru need to have a matured level of understanding & rapport.
What do you suggest for better accessibility of Table Tennis in remote parts of India?
We need to improve the Infrastructure associated with sports. As far as table tennis is concerned, even our metros don’t have the much-required training facilities. That’s the reason rural areas have failed to develop skill for table tennis as they still lack the finance and resources.
In your opinion, what are the basic key traits apart from formal training that make “imd1”?
Family atmosphere plays a basic role in making a champion. Formative stages of one’s life are shaped at home and then at a later stage in school. These 2 institutions have tremendous contribution in building a child’s personality & career.
How can one identify & encourage talent in the family and what should be the right age to start training?
Children must be exposed to physical activities from a young age. Ideal age to start getting coached is from 5-6 years. Parents & elders of the family need to have a keen observation over the interests of the child. They will get lot of hints. But one should also understand that success will not come easily. Every successful person has their ups and down. Keep them exposed to hard work and have an unbiased opinion on their performance. Remember though the child is born through you, but he may be not born for everything. Everyone has their own uniqueness and inherited talent. See what is appropriate for them and then let the child decide & choose their career.
Your piece of advice to parents and new generation especially when some people are skeptical about career in extra curriculum.
Parents are first heroes & idol of every child. Sports is the best medium to ensure they are not diverted towards bad habits and thus they can channelize their creativity & energy in the right direction. Our youth have lot of energy. It’s the best way of attracting them by engaging their talent in a constructive manner.
One thing which you feel you want to change from the past while you walk down memory lane…
We had very limited access to technology. There was no coaching or hi-tech training in those days. I wish we had modern technology in sports so that I could have utilized it and enhanced my performance. This could have helped me perform better.