Anil Rasam’s dream run was finally brought to a close by homegrown hero Ake Huss in the fourth round of the main draw of the men’s plus-49 singles in the recently concluded World Veteran Table Tennis Championships at Ericcsson Globe,Stockholm (Sweden). But this only after the unassuming paddler from Mumbai had overcome four grueling qualifying rounds,and also beaten prominent names from the past like Sweden’s Stefan Karlsssonwhom he beat 3-0 (13-11,11-9,11-7)–and Germany’s Christian Damm3-2 (10-12,11-4,7-11,11-7,13-11). And even against Huss,it was only after giving it his all that Rasam accepted defeat.
His proved to be the most noteworthy performance among 200- odd Indian players,who took part in the championships with 3,500 players from 66 nations in the fray in different age groups.
Rasam has been one of the faces for table-tennis in the city for close to two decades now. Into his late forties now,the paddler,who works for the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation,is still very much active on the local circuit,and even participates in city and state tournaments. And speaking about the grand event,Rasam couldn’t stop gushing about the thrill of playing at the top level again.
It was quite unbelievable. Even watching and playing along with the likes of world-class players like Belgiums Philippe Saive and Swedens own world champion Mikael Appelgren was an unforgettable experience. And playing in such huge halls,having 133 table tennis tables,was an awesome sight, he said. What struck me most was the agility,fitness and reflexes of the home players. Some of whom were older than me. They were so good that they could easily have beaten some of our regular top players, added Rasam.
And it was no surprise to see Appelgren win the mens plus-49 crown by beating Australian Qiwai Lu in a thrilling 3-2 final. Applet as Apprelgren is called fondly has been the world doubles champion in 1985 and was the first male player to have won the European title thrice. In 1985,he was instrumental in Sweden beating the unbeatable Chinese 5-0 in the world team championship final.
After helping Sweden earn themselves the world champion tag in 1989,1991 and 1993,’Applet’ retreated from the international table tennis following the World Championships in Tianjin,China,in 1995. However,his love for the game has kept him going. He plays both in the Elite Series for Sparvagen and in the Superrettan series. And to top it he is a coach and team captain as well.
And then there was Alexandr Kaptarenko,who is a small matter of 100-years-old,the only centurion to be still actively participating in the World Championships.
Among other Indians,Yogesh Desai went out in the second round and so di Kapil Kumar. Deepak Dudhane was knocked out in the third round. And Prasad Naik was beaten by J Pormvik after he put up a terrific fight. In other results involving Indians,Dinkar Shelarka lost to A Demen 3-2,Jayant Kulkarni put up a spirited fight before losing to A Fazilifard and Prakash Kulkar was thrashed 3-0 by I Smola.