Tete-a-tete with paddler Jeet Chandra
Gariahat boy Jeet Chandra played a lot of other sports as a kid, but found love in table tennis. Number 9 in the U-21 world rankings, Jeet is currently in Spain where he is garnering quality experience from his practice sessions with the Spanish team headed for the Olympics. We caught up with the young man on his dreams and aspirations.
How’s the Covid situation in Spain now?
Fortunately, the Covid cases are quite low over here. It is under control and people are also following the norms. I honestly hope the situation soon gets better and we can go back to the pre-Covid days. I am fortunate enough to be able to continue my training with such top-class players here in Spain where all the players are kept in safe and restricted environment, allowing us to focus on our training only.
You have been there for how long now?
It has been over a month now, and I am regularly practising with the Spanish team that is preparing for the Tokyo Olympics under the guidance of the Spanish national team coach and Olympian Alfredo Carneros. He has been helping me to improve my game with his valuable guidance. During my stay here, I am focusing on making the most out of this experience and better myself in every aspect.
The experience of training with world-class Olympics-bound players must be amazing! Who all are you training with? What is your schedule?
It is an amazing experience and a great opportunity for me to understand how top players prepare themselves in order to excel in their skills. I am training at the National Sports Centre in Madrid along with the entire Spanish team who are training for the upcoming Olympic Games. I have been sparring alongside one of Spain’s top players, Alvaro Robles, who will be representing the country in Tokyo. Robles and I have had a brief interaction during the third season of Ultimate Table Tennis, and because we have known each other, there has been a comfort factor and it’s been easier for me to train with him here. Understanding the nuances of the game from him and the other top players is definitely going to help me build confidence and perform better in my future tournaments.
My daily schedule includes mostly the extensive fitness routine which I follow without fail. I work out and train to build my strength. My daily schedule includes various exercises like running, gym sessions... and this is the same schedule I have followed in the past and now here in Spain as well apart from the active sparring sessions. As an athlete I need to ensure I am fit and it is important to have an injury-free career and hence understanding the nuances of training, warm-up is essential.
Was your dad a definite inspiration for you to take up table tennis? Did you instantly like the game?
My father, Tapan Chandra, was my source of inspiration. He had coached and trained one of India’s top paddlers Poulomi Ghatak in the past. He was the first person to introduce me to the game and I always enjoyed playing it. He inspires me, guides me and motivates as father as well as a coach. There was never any pressure from his side to choose table tennis as a sport. It was my decision to take up table tennis and I know for sure he would have accepted whatever my choice may have been. He runs his own table tennis coaching centres at two locations in Calcutta where he loves to train the young and budding table tennis players.
What has been his biggest mantra for you?
The biggest mantra from him would be to never stop no matter how difficult it may seem. One needs to keep working hard towards their dreams and new challenges will only make you bigger and stronger. I think that is what keeps me going and gives me the strength to push my limits for my passion towards table tennis.
Is he a tough coach or does he go easy on you?
When I’m practising or playing, just like every coach, he too wants me to give my best. He always motivates me to accomplish bigger milestones.
You also train under Soumyadeep Roy and Poulomi Ghatak, two of Bengal’s biggest table tennis champs. What have been the learnings like?
They are among the top paddlers who have represented India and won medals at the highest platforms and when you are practising under the best, there is no end to the learning. In a game we usually tend to focus on the bigger picture and miss out on the smaller details, which matters a lot. They have done so well for the country and their experience makes a world of difference and through their guidance I am working on my game and honing my skills.
Was representing Haryana a conscious choice?
Yes, I play for Haryana at the national level. But my goal is to win medals for the country at the international tournaments. I also have a home in Haryana. The state helps me a lot to progress towards my goals and achieve it.
What was your childhood like? Did you play anything else?
I started playing table tennis since I was a kid and as I kept getting interest in the sport, I took up this sport professionally and started focussing seriously. As a kid I would love other sports as well but I found my interest in table tennis.
Who are your favourite table tennis players?
Ma Long. I love his style of play. He just dominates the opponent and shows amazing skills. He has three Olympic gold medals to his name, which is incredible.
You seem to be a Virat Kohli fan too?
Yes, I am a big fan of Virat Kohli. He has been a top cricketer in today’s world and also one of the fittest sportspersons in India. His dedication to the sport is amazing and inspiring.
What would be a dream come true for you, as a player?
I guess like every athlete, getting a medal at the Olympics is my dream. I hope to soon represent India at the major international multi-sport event and win a medal for India. I am focussed on developing my skills further so that once things are back to normal, I would be at my best form.
Favourite sports film: M.S .Dhoni: The Untold Story
Favourite holiday destination: Myanmar
Favourite song: Believer
Favourite actress: Deepika Padukone
Favourite actor: Ayushmann Khurrana
Current ITTF World Ranking in Seniors — Men Singles: 392
Biggest achievement till date: Oman Open gold in U-21