Mouma Das vows to give it all at Rio Olympics

Having made her international debut in 1997, Mouma has been part of the Indian team for 15 World Championships. However, her best world ranking of 145 reflects the stagnation in her career.

At 32, Mouma Das is among the most durable female champions the country has seen in table tennis.   -  M. Moorthy

Around a month from now, Mouma Das will be off to her second Olympics, in the space of 12 years. At 32, she is among the most durable female champions the country has seen in table tennis.

Having made her international debut in 1997, Mouma has been part of the Indian team for 15 World Championships. However, her best world ranking of 145 reflects the stagnation in her career.

Concentration on fitness

On the brighter side, this five-time national champion from 10 final appearances, is known to work harder on fitness than any of her peers. These days, ahead of the Olympics, Mouma is working up to nine hours a day.

“I am working hard at the Salt Lake Stadium (in Kolkata) with coach Debabrata Chakraborty. I feel, with age, my strokes have become a bit slower than what they once were, but I am working towards it,” said Mouma as reflected on her preparations.

As sparring partners, Mouma has a pack of young and willing national-ranked players, who help sharpen her strokes.

“I am quite happy with the amount of training done so far. I have the help of a physiotherapist and I maintain the recommended diet to be at my peak fitness in Rio.”

It may be recalled that Mouma lost the Olympic qualifying race to Manika Batra from the South Asian region in Hong Kong, in April, but her ranking brought in a second chance. She grabbed one of the two remaining berths by winning the loser’s final. Mouma bounced back from the loss of the first game to outplay the lower-ranked Uzbek Rimma Gufranova 11-13, 11-9, 13-11, 11-7, 12-10.

Having qualified, Mouma could have made use of Rs. 30 lakh offered under the Union Government’s TOP scheme, but chose to train in Kolkata which she finds, “very cheap as compared to other places.”

“So far I have received around Rs. 16 lakh from the sanctioned amount but I will be returning the excess money. These days, I have rented a room closer to the training venue at Salt Lake so it saves me time travelling from my home that is 30 kms away.”

Role model

The short-statured Mouma stands tall among the champions from Bengal. She is a role model for many young talents from the state known to feed the Indian team at all levels.

“I want to do better in this Games as compared to what I could do in 2004 in Athens. I was very young then and in awe of the occasion. This time, I want to give it all without getting intimidated,” said the OIL India employee.

However, it was indeed surprising to see a well-prepared Mouma make a second-round exit from the national-ranking event in Chandigarh.

“I struggled with the bounce offered by different tables. In the morning, the bounce was lower but in the afternoon, the ball seemed to climb, more than I anticipated. Secondly, the brand of ball used here is different from the one which will be used in Rio. I am training with the ball approved for the upcoming Olympics. So it was difficult to adjust.

“Once I return for the inter-institutional championship in Jaipur (in late July), I am likely to face the same problem of adjustment. But that cant be helped, I guess,” said Mouma.

For now, it is back to training for Mouma whose flat forehand drives have kept the challengers at bay for nearly two decades in the domestic circuit.

Though not much is expected from Mouma, she is working hard to give her best on the world’s biggest stage.