New Delhi: They have grown up in the same city, trained at the same club under the watchful eyes of former women`s national Table Tennis champion Mantu Ghosh in their early days but now Olympic-bound paddler duo Soumyajit Ghosh and Ankita Das have managed to put Siliguri permanently on India`s sporting map.
To understand what Siliguri has done for Indian TT, one needs to listen to former India international and two-time national champion Mantu, who was the first iconic paddler from the North Bengal town.
"What Bhiwani means to Indian boxing, having produced so many champion boxers, Siliguri now has established itself as the nursery of Indian TT. Siliguri has produced national champions in all age-groups and number of international players. But two players in same Olympics is something I have never dreamt about," said an ecstatic Mantu, who is also the chief of the North Bengal Table Tennis Association (NBTTA).
"I am extremely proud for what these kids have achieved. I have seen both of them start training at our Deshbandhu Para club. This is their first year at the senior level. The best part about both Soumyajit and Ankita is their never-say-die spirit. Where other youngsters would give up, I have seen these two put in extra effort. I only hope they don`t get nervous at the big stage in London," says Mantu.
Asked what this qualification means to the city, Mantu says, "Till now, each and every aspiring paddler in Siliguri wanted to win national championship and represent India. I have represented India for more than a decade but failed to make it to Olympics. Now Soumyajit and Ankita`s exploits will make youngsters believe that even they can make it to the Olympics and that too before they are 20."
"In Siliguri, you will find atleast one member in each and every household, who can atleast keep the ball on the table. Table Tennis is a way of life in Siliguri. Whether it was myself or Ganesh Kundu, then there was Subhajit and Nandita Saha and now we have Soumyajit and Ankita who have surpassed everyone.
"How many would have thought that Soumyajit will beat senior players like (Achanta) Sharath Kamal and (Anthony) Amalraj, who are yet to make the cut? As far as Ankita is concerned, everything is happening so fast. I hope she doesn`t get bogged down as expectations from her should be realistic," Mantu concluded.