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Li’l champ paddles the odds
Family’s Olympic dream

Her dream: Representing India at the Olympic Games and also helping out talented young players fighting financial odds.

Her reality: A family income of Rs 5,000 that threatens to cut short a promising career.

Meet Moumita Dutta, the 10-year-old state sub-junior champion in table tennis.

The little champion, ranked number four nationally, lives in a single room with her parents at her maternal grandparents’ house in Naihati, North 24-Parganas. Her father Gauri Shankar Dutta works as an office guard in Burrabazar and her mother Mamoni goes door to door selling homemade pickles and sauces.

“We borrow from local moneylenders at a steep rate of interest so that Moumita can travel to various parts of the country for tournaments,” said Mamoni, who once played volleyball. “Then we pray that she wins so that the money can be repaid. That’s how it has been going on....”

Moumita plays in around 40 tournaments a year and that means a travel bill of around Rs 75,000. “She has got no help from the state and if she doesn’t get a sponsor soon, her career may soon be over for no fault of hers,” said Moumita’s coach Amit Mukherjee, at whose Prochestha Table Tennis Prashikhan Kendra and Auro Mirra Counselling Centre she discovered her love for the game in 2008.

“She trains at the academy for free and I buy her a stock of TT balls. We have also arranged for her player’s kit but that is just not enough. Her family cannot even afford the right kind of nutrition she needs,” said Mukherjee.

A typical day for Moumita starts with physical training under the supervision of her father, who used to play football. Then she is off to school. The major part of the evening is spent practising her serve and smash, often till 10pm. After that, back to books. “She has never shunned hard work, even at the cost of insufficient sleep,” said the proud mother,.

What drives little Moumita? “I can’t think of becoming anything other than a professional TT player. I can give up everything for the game. I hardly get to attend classes in school. I don’t even have friends there. It’s my game and my friends at the academy that make my world,” she said.

The toil and the talent have already won her three silver medals at the Cadet and Sub-Junior National and Inter State Table Tennis Championship 2011-12 in Kerala. “That was my most memorable experience,” said Moumita, whose next destination is the 74th Cadet and Sub-Junior National Table Tennis Championships in Gandhidam, Gujarat, from January 16.

“Since it’s a national tournament, the travel cost will be reimbursed,” said a relieved Mamoni.

Brightening up the room that Moumita shares with her parents are a few crayon works by her. “When I am tense, I draw,” said Moumita, a fan of Shah Rukh Khan who loves a plate of biryani.

Enjoying pride of place in the room of course is a glass cabinet filled with medals and trophies. “This cabinet is a gift from her uncle as we had no place to keep her trophies. Our entire family is hoping that Moumita will make it big one day,” said Mamoni.

Moumita on her part hopes that one day her glass cabinet will boast an Olympic medal. “I will fight for it,” she says.

What is your message for Moumita? Tell

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