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Not many of our generation remembers Venugopal Chandrasekaran, the former Indian three-time national table tennis champion and Arjuna Awardee from Tamil Nadu. Fondly known as Chandra, he was a prolific competitor across the table during his playing days, and people admired him for his never give up attitude. At a time when sports coverage on TV was very limited, tickets for his matches sold in the black market in places like Indore and Pune. Later he won the national championship. After a long stint of training in Japan, he was selected to play for the World Championship in 1977 in Birmingham. During the 1982 Commonwealth Championships, he played the final against Canada's Kosanovic, a win could have made him the first Indian to bag the Commonwealth Championship. Just 16 days after winning Arjuna Award, Chandra slipped into coma after a freak hospital incident. His Table Tennis career was cut short, and he was left with permanent movement-related disabilities. Today he runs an academy to coach and mentor young paddlers. "I started coaching in 1990, six years after the accident since I couldn't be a player any more. The government gave me land to build my own centre in Mugapet in Chennai, and the academy was finally opened in 2015," says Chandra in an exclusive interview with The Bridge. Chandra, is looking to raise funds to build basic infrastructure and add amenities to his coaching centre. He has vowed to dedicate the rest of his life to this academy in a bid to produce the table tennis superstars of tomorrow. Chandra has also trained two of India's modern-day great paddlers Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Anthony Amalraj. Talking about the challenges in his academy, Chandra mentioned "Every four or five years, you need good equipment in the academy, we have to put back international quality TT table, floor mats, kits for the academy that houses over 50 players today. We also need world-class coaches to train the students here."
He will use the funds collected for: 1) Invest in more Table Tennis Tables and replace the old ones 2) Replace the rubber floor 3) Subsidize the kit, clothing and shoes of the players 4) Susidize the travel and stay arrangements for the children for various tournaments. 5) Build a compound wall around this coaching centre. https://twitter.com/sumanthraman/status/1151533020853067776 Those who wish to contribute to this brilliant initiative may reach out to him on his contact number: 98400 74131
He further adds, "I don't want to strain students and their parents by increasing the fees. That is why I seek support to help me fulfil their dreams of bringing more laurels for our country. The number 1 player in the boy's cadet category Umesh is trained by me and I hope to produce more such talent in the future."