5 Empowering Questions about Para Table Tennis to Sonu Gupta from India
“All that matters is that you are not giving up at any moment!”
VirtualRunners is keen on supporting under-represented organisations and strong personalities on their journey to take on the world and create a social movement. That´s why we asked 5 empowering questions about para table tennis to Sonu Gupta from India, who we sponsor.
He is one of the first players in that category in his country, started a para table tennis movement unknown before and is now competing in international championships against normal bodied and other para table tennis players from his wheelchair!
Find out more about his long journey and the changes he has achieved for his community in India below!
Tell me a little bit about yourself, your life, and your table tennis journey?
I come from a very humble background from Kanpur, a small town in India. Having not been able to complete my studies because of total lack of accessibility for people with disability in all my nearby universities and colleges and because of financial reasons as well, I personally decided to make a difference through the things I liked and enjoyed the most, table tennis and theatrics/ wheelchair dance performances.
The idea was to make my presence felt in the ecosystem. I decided to move to my relatives in Delhi and decided to appear in tournaments which were otherwise meant for normal abled body. Since no guidelines were formed up until then regarding para table tennis as sports back in 2006-2007, I could beat some of the players in the game and got through few of the rounds.
That's when the authorities encouraged me to participate in the international para table tennis tournament which were being held across the world. I could muster my courage to take this really bold step with whatever I had and so attended a few tournament in Asian circuit and once across the seas in Chile (with some financial help) since then.
Though I am yet to win any pole position in these tournaments, I happened to raise a spark back in India, with more than 100 disabled people who got inspired by my feat and value my guidance on pursuing their interest with table tennis further in their own life.
“I realized down the journey that it was not about improving your own life and focusing only on your own personal interests but to give back to the community, who I am part of and that its something which gives more eternal satisfaction than anything else.”
I am currently the 5th best player in the country and the top ranked player in North India under my category. I am more determined than ever to make a significant mark through my focused training and will power to bring a positive change in the ecosystem to recognise us as people with special powers through the use of table tennis.
I have also been able to encourage, mentor and coach my wife, who is also disabled with deformity in her legs, to start from scratch and win the title for the 2nd best player in the country. She has been phenomenal in her debut National Championship and so now I am looking forward to introduce her to international tournament. For her it will be great chance to make a mark in her TT category and for me It will be best of my opportunity to deliver after focused and intense training in recent years.
What brought you to VirtualRunners?
"We are those marathon runners who are running for the finish line which is nothing but a distant mirage" and this makes us a super marathoners, who have been running for opportunities since the day we are born. In India the situation gets tougher, manifold. I believe we have a resolve, will power and dedication and hope much higher than the average normal bodied person.
If there are any group of people who can resonate and associate with what we go through in life, it's the marathoners. VirtualRunners worldwide seems to be a community, which would encourage the likes of us. We are training hard throughout the year and believe that community like VirtualRunners would encourage us even more to excel in our field.
Click here to check out what Sonu Gupta looks like in action !
What's your biggest dream?
I wish to see our society as a setup where no one is judged by the way he/she looks/perceived like unlike one has the opportunity to show what he/she is capable of. All my life, we have been running on track meant for hurdle race unlike those normal bodied, who are running on the synthetic track. We are meant to compete them despite all the challenges.
So, I feel like its my duty to inspire people with disability to double up their efforts and come out victorious and be the beacon of hope for many others.
“My dream is to create a platform/community of like minded people to inspire and create opportunities for people with disability through sports.”
The first leg of my project has taken some time but the results are fruitful. We now have more than 179 disabled participants from across India at para table tennis National Championship against just 20 in 2009.
What is your advice to a person with disabilities starting in competitive sports?
There are usually two kind of advice which are always on top of my mind.
1. Competitive sports demand your focus, skills, patience, and spontaneity. With physical and specific mental training all this can be fed into your approach towards the sports you play. I like to advise people to focus more on their character as a person. What happens in a match you recently won, just makes you a good player on record, but what happens right after it and beyond, decides how you are going to be known as, in your competitor's and spectator's mind for ever.
One should always know the importance of appreciating the opponent's game even when you won against them. One has to become a great player by being humble and friendly when off-court. One has to leave an everlasting positive impact on opponent's mind.
2. Competition in sports is always with yourself, not with the opponent. Table tennis is a one-to-one sports where we can almost see the opponent eye-to-eye and can possibly make moves to play him/her down with tactics and strategy. But, one should always think of the opponent as just a mere challenge to go across while you excel in your own game. Every match has to be the better version of you.
You may not win all of the matches but if you are not coming up with any learning from it or, are not improving your skills you are actually not just loosing the game but the idea of learning as well.
My advice holds for both person with disabilities and the ones without them.
What is your greatest motivation?
My motivation comes from a powerful quote mentioned in one of the books my friend (who likes to run) had read and told me once. It goes like this:
"When you are running a marathon, all you have to care about is putting one feet ahead of the other"
For me that goes for life as well. One has to always keep rolling. Keep moving, the road is going to take a turn and the view is going to be better. The finish line doesn't matter. Whether you are ahead of others or running behind all of them, doesn't matter. All that matters is that you are not giving up at any moment!
Thank you Sonu Gupta, for your insightful answers to our 5 empowering questions about para table tennis in India. We wish you the best of luck with your tournament in Thailand, Chile, Argentina and Costa Rica!
Your VirtualRunners Family