Elite Paddlers Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran Come Together to Help Players

With the sport on the rise in the country, elite paddlers like Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran have come together to ensure those associated with table tennis and in need of financial assistance during tough COVID-19 times are not left in the lurch.

Along with Olympian and former junior national champion Neha Aggarwal, India's top two ranked male paddlers veteran Sharath and Sathiyan have decided to fund 100 beneficiaries to help them tide through this tough time.

It will be a one time grant of Rs 10,000 each to all junior players, support staff and coaches across the country who are struggling to meet ends.

"This initiative was championed by myself, Sharath and Neha. Neha was the one who brought us together of course with the back-end support from Go Sports Foundation. So I felt sports was one community where importance was not given and for a lot of them, livelihood is dependent on sport," Sathiyan told IANS from Chennai on Wednesday.

"They are literally finding it difficult to meet ends where sports activities have not resumed and especially in Chennai it's a complete lockdown. People have not been able to earn money without coaching.

"I feel table tennis has given me everything. It's time that I give back to the community. So we thought we would come together. Now it's important we all play as a team," he said.

Talking about the initiative, Sathiyan added: " We are trying to find out 100 beneficiaries. It can be mostly junior athletes, support staff and coaches who are solely dependent on table tennis and their entire livelihood is based on the sport.

"So we are finding out those most vulnerable people in every state and trying to bring up data. Raising funds. We are aiming at 10,000 per person so 100 people will be around 10 lakhs in a month's time. That is the target and I hope we will be able to achieve this target.

"The amount will be directly disbursed. Lot of people are helping us to get those people from their states and we are trying to scrutinise it and trying to help 100 beneficiaries. I hope this will be something which will make them feel the entire community is there to support. It's not a big amount.

"Table tennis is on the rise and as top athletes we don't want this pandemic to stop that run of the sport. We don't want people to leave the sport because of financial distress," said Sathiyan.

Of late, Indian TT players have done exceedingly well at the Commonwealth and Asian Games with Sathiyan also becoming the first Indian to break into the top-25 of the ITTF world rankings when he rose to No 24 in July last year.

Currently, Sharath is the top-ranked paddler in India on 31 while Sathiyan is just below him at 32.