Mudit Dani on choosing table tennis
Rising table tennis player Mudit Dani is all smiles in his latest Instagram photographs. He has just completed his graduation from New York University and has his eyes firmly set on both academics and table tennis. We caught up with Mudit on the sport and his dreams of an Olympic medal.
Congratulations Mudit! How did you celebrate your graduation?
Thank you for your wishes! The convocation took place virtually and I watched it happen with couple of my friends from the university. We even went out to the Washington Square Arch and clicked some pictures. Everyone’s parents were also part of the event, watching on FaceTime. So, it was a little different from the usual but it was fun for sure.
What did you study at New York University?
I studied Business Management from New York University for my bachelor’s degree and now I will be pursuing Masters in Quantitative Management, which is in finance and statistics. I will be doing the two-year course from STERN Business School, which will start in September.
What was your training schedule like while in NYU?
I would strategise and schedule my day to utilise most of my time efficiently. If I take the morning classes today, then I would do evening sessions for the next day, which would give me almost a days’ time in between to train and work out and simultaneously work on my assignments as well. I would use the weekends to travel and play tournaments in the US.
What are regular practice hours like?
So, it was a lot of planning but it worked out pretty well I would say. I ended up training at least for about three and three-and-a-half hours a day. Yes, it was not full-time professional in terms of the hours but the training was intense and focused on the things that needed to develop. I started doing my courses online from the second year, and moved to Europe to train full-time. At that point I would study at night and in the morning, I would train for about like two-and-a-half hours and again in the evening for two hours and would also do about 45 minutes of physical training. So that was the full intense schedule of mine.
What attracted you towards table tennis?
I would say the different tactics and the speed of the game. Here, I get to have fun talking to other people, there are different levels of challenges including players vs older players, younger players, left-handers, right-handers, and there are like attackers, and defenders... so for me it was really interesting. I felt like I could challenge my mind also at the same time in a different way to find solutions for certain players and identify their weak points. These are the factors which attracted me as a young kid.
When did you play your first tournament?
My first tournament was when I was eight years old. I played the inter-school event just for fun and I lost.
Can you take us through the milestones and major wins in your career so far?
I was the first table tennis player from Mumbai to win a Gold Medal in the Cadet Boys Individual Event at an International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Junior Circuit Event held at El Salvador. I won one gold in the Cadet team event and three bronze: 2 in Cadet — Individuals and Doubles and one in Junior — Individuals. It was a proud moment for me as I am the only third Indian player after Soumyajit Ghosh and Harmeet Desai to break into the Top-10 of the ITTF World Junior Boys’ rankings.
I secured my first-ever International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) senior medal after progressing into the men’s doubles semi-finals of the US Open Championships at the Fort Worth Convention Center in Texas, which I got in 2019 and I am currently the sixth-highest ranked Indian paddler.
Who or what has had a major contribution in your playing career?
It is impossible for me to single out certain people. Throughout my journey, I have got support from my school and college and surely my coaches and trainers who were constantly helping me out. My family and friends too supported me to follow my passion. It’s basically a huge team effort I would say, as I wouldn’t have able to do it without any of their co-operation.
Tell us about training with Kamlesh Mehta...
He has been like a father to me and I am privileged to be under his guidance. His experience and expertise are beyond limits and everything he taught me is what has made me the player and the person I am today. I am grateful to him for everything that he does for me and for all the other players in the group of table tennis in India as a whole.
How much has Achanta Sharath Kamal’s international success boosted your morale of taking up table tennis as a career?
I was 11 years old when I had first met Sharath at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, requesting him to share a frame with me. And fast forward 10 years now when I can talk to him anytime, play cards together, train together and go to tournaments together. It has been a complete journey and a dream for me. Everyone around my age definitely has grown up watching him change the way Indian table tennis looks on the world map and I have the utmost respect for him. It is an honour for me to learn from him and play beside him during the world tours. It is a motivation to have him around and I hope to see him more years representing India.
Will Mumbai keep being your base?
I believe yes. With the travel restrictions it would be ideal for me to continue my training in Mumbai.
Your ultimate dream must be to participate in the Olympics...
Yes, definitely that is my ultimate dream. It is a great sense of pride an athlete feels when they represent the country at such multi-sport events. However, my immediate goal is to qualify for the 2022 Commonwealth Games that is scheduled to be held in Birmingham, England.
What are your other passions?
It would be sports and music. I can literally watch and enjoy any kind of sports like cricket football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, swimming. I even love to play them as I like being active. And music is something that calms me and is my companion during my trips. I am also a foodie though I surely need to maintain some restrictions.
Favourite sport apart from table tennis: Football
Favourite sports icon: Michael Phelps
Favourite sporting moment: Abhinav Bindra winning Olympic gold
Favourite stroke: Backhand spin
If not a table tennis player, I’d be: Entrepreneur in the finance space