A blow below the belt

Flashy and flamboyant, Venugopalan Chandrasekar was one of the few paddlers in India players feared to compete against, but whom spectators loved to watch. An exciting talent, who could play in the attacking mode with any rubber and in any situation, Chandra was a complete player with almost every stroke at his command. From 1980 to 1982, he won three National Championships and at the International level many top players from other countries considered him a major threat. During the National Championships, people flocked to the stadium just to see him play.

With a world-ranking in the 40s, Chandra nursed ambitions of entering the top 20. He even approached some European clubs, who were keen to rope him in. Then fate intervened. On September 13, 1984, the 26-year-old got admitted to a Chennai hospital for a minor surgery to set right a common knee problem. But, after the operation, Chandra lost his peripheral vision and control over his limbs. Accusing the hospital of negligence, Chandra filed a case in 1985 and won it in the Supreme Court 10 years later. “I still can’t get over the tragedy. It still haunts me,” he says.

However, life has moved on. The 52-year-old Arjuna Awardee runs the SDAT-Chandra Medimix Academy in Chennai nurturing young talent. Chandra has another wish. “I want to complete my pet project of constructing an exclusive table tennis stadium in Chennai,” he says. Though funds are a major problem, Chandra says he can overcome the odds just as he has done in his personal life.

K. Keerthivasan