By Our Reporter
Shillong: All eyes are on top five junior paddlers in the country, including a young player from Mizoram, who are set to sweat it out at the 12th South Asian Federation (SAF) Junior Table Tennis Championship starting slated to be held here from June 17-19.
Mallika Bhandarkar, currently ranked 95 in the world junior category, has won the French Open Cadet Singles in 2010, was runners up in Bahrain Junior Open the same year, and winner of the Indian Open (cadet singles) in 2008 and 2010 while she was a runner-up in 2009.
She was also in the team that won the US Open (U-18 category) and made the nation proud in 2009 and 2010 by winning the SAF Junior TT Championship.
Abhishek Yadav, ranked 175 in world junior ranking, was a member of the US Open champion (U-18) team. He also took part in the World Cadet Challenge and Junior Circuit and was runners-up in doubles category in the same event. A member of the runners-up team of Indian Open 2008, he was crowned the singles champion.
Utkarsh Gupta ranked 37 (Cadet) is the winner of US Open 2010 and 2011. He was also the South Asian Champion last year and is a Spanish Junior Open bronze medallist. In the Hongkong Junior Open and Indian Open Gupta lifted gold and silver medals respectively.
Spoorthy Karnam ranked 35 (Cadet, U-15) was part of the team that lifted the US Open Championship. She was also a member of the winning team in the Indian Open where she finished third. Karnam was in the U-18 teams that bagged the second place in the Spanish Open last year and third place at the Slovaka Open.
Meanwhile, making the North East proud, a young paddler from Mizoram, Lalrin Puia, who won last year’s US Open singles title and was runner-up in the Indian Open (cadet team), will defend his title and hopes to get a ticket to China for the Asian Junior TT Championship.
Indian national coach Sandeep Gupta expressed confidence that the participants are eager to display their skills and was confident of a good show.
“They (the boys and girls) have been working hard and we are confident of doing extremely well this time,” Gupta said while expressing hope that the event will attract more young people from the region ‘to the exciting world of TT’. (With inputs from PTI)