In talks with the amazingly talented Table Tennis champion Harmeet Desai
The young talent Harmeet Desai has been making India proud with his Table Tennis skills. The Arjuna Awardee has played numerous tournaments and championships. Gujarat Celebs got a chance to talk to this exceptional sportsman and know about his life, childhood, education, and experience.
How you formed an interest in Table Tennis?
“Actually I started at the age of six. I got fascinated with the sport and wanted to try my luck. Till the age of nine to ten, I couldn’t reach the top of the table but, I had been a stubborn kid. I didn’t give at any cost and wanted to try it out anyhow. Once I performed really well my parents also started to support me. Since then I did my best.”
What inspired (you) Harmeet Desai the most to enter the sport?
“When I saw my father play table tennis, I got very attracted to it. Since childhood, I wanted to pursue it. My parents had also seen how much capable I was. Because I had the talent they never said “no” to me. With their support, I became better. From the first, I defeated players who were older than me and had more experience. This made me believe in myself. Even at a very early age, I had a dedication, determination. I’m really fortunate that I could reach where I wanted to be.”
Tell us something about your Early life & education
“I am from Surat, Gujarat. I have studied in quite a number of schools because changed a lot of schools; about nine schools actually. Surat is a business hub as you know. It is also called a textile city but, it has never been known as a sports city. So it was pretty hard for me to achieve my goal. As I was playing tournaments I had to travel a lot. So back then, my school in the city did not try to understand. I had to miss outclasses a lot. Though I was a good student as in good in studies, I could only appear for the exams. Some of the schools never really supported me and that made me change schools again and again. Sometimes the schools started in the morning and I had to practice in the morning and evening. That also made it hard. But I got support from St. Xavier’s and CC Shah. In the end, I was in HMB Sardar High School. After school, I did B.Com from Jaipur University.”
Has it been hard to balance sport and study?
“Not really. I haven’t felt that way and could manage both of them well. I gave up a lot of activities that were not really important for me. That kind of made it easier. My parents also made sure that I was not wasting time. So I only focused on table tennis and spared my time for studies. I never really went for partying or movies that every other kiddo. I had to be focused.”
How do you feel about achieving success?
“Well, I don’t know. I have much more to achieve and I am aiming higher. I want to play in the Olympics for India one day. There are a lot more things to achieve as a table tennis player. I am working really hard to reach there.”
You (Harmeet’s) best experience in Table Tennis
“It’s difficult to make out a single one. I can say the best moment was when I won the gold medal in the commonwealth games. Being on the podium there, seeing the national flag, hearing the national anthem, which was really a very proud moment for me. And representing India every time I went to play makes me really happy. I have been to around fifty countries. When I was 10 years old I never thought I would represent my nation in the senior category or become a senior national champion. So these things make me really happy.”
What did you miss in the lockdown period?
“Actually I am in France right now. I came here in October after staying at home for more than 7 months. The whole time I was with my family. Since childhood, I went out a lot for tournaments and I never really could spend much time with family. For the most part, I was away from home. So this was the first time after I guess 16-17 years that I got to spend so much time with them. I took it as a blessing that I could be there, eat homemade food, and be with my parents. It had been a totally different feeling. As table tennis players we never have any off-season. We are always in the game. So this period made me do different things. I am really happy that I could be home. Now I am back again for training and game in France.”
How many hours does you (Harmeet) train regularly?
“Usually its 6 to 8 hours if daily work. And I’m continuing to do so. Earlier when I trained from home I spend more time training. Fitness is also very important. The more disciplined I am the better the result gets.”
Workout tips from Harmeet Desai
“It is most important is to have the right trainer. The guidance is really necessary. Discipline is a vital thing. And diet chart plays a major role. I was more into fitness when I was in my teens than I am now. I had no idea how important a perfect diet is. Everyone should put equal importance on both fitness and diet. I believe it can lead you to success.”
Your (Harmeet’s) special diet
“Since 2016, I began taking diet seriously. I follow a low carb diet with almost no sugar intake. It is really important for an athlete to stay fit and lean. In table tennis, you have to maintain speed which makes fitness a major part. My mother is a dietician so I get a lot of tips from her. Sugar has become a cheat meal now as I have stopped consuming it from 2016. Rice and roti also I reduced having. When I am in Europe, my diet gets stricter. Nowadays you have seen how even a thirty-five years old player can perform really well. So for staying in the field for a long time you need to focus on fitness. I hope I also can keep myself fit for a longer period so I can keep playing.”
Which are upcoming tournaments
“Next month there is National Championship. I flying back to India for it. Then I have Qatar Opening in March. I am preparing for them. Hope I do well in them.
What are your (Harmeet’s) hobbies?
“I like watching movies and love traveling and being in new places. I like to hang out with friends and making new friends and also read books. When I am not training or playing I spend my time doing these things.”
What does Harmeet advise for the youngsters?
“Everyone who wants to get into sports and reach the height must have a lot of patience. They should also put lots of effort. Dedication, determination, and discipline – I believe in these 3 Ds. Youngsters who are dreaming should also follow it. And passion is most important. It shouldn’t feel like you are forced or told to do it. For the sake of somebody else, you should not be doing it. You should be able to enjoy what you are doing. I have been playing table tennis since I was 6 years old. Till now I never got bored for a single day or moment while playing or training. When I do something that I don’t enjoy or like, I might be doing it for 20 minutes and it feels like 4 hours; but when I am playing table tennis, even 8 hours feel like 8 minutes. So it’s really important to be in love with what you do in life and be passionate about it. You need keep working hard and putting effort for achieving success.”
If you were not a table tennis player what career would Harmeet choose?
“I think I would have joined the Indian army and had been very passionate about it. I admire the uniform. Since childhood, I have been very patriotic. I always wanted to do something for my nation. Though what I do is very trivial to what the army men do. So if it wasn’t table tennis player I would love to opt for it.”
Facts about Harmeet Desai
- Favourite Food – Ghar ka khana (Homemade food)
- Favourite Hangout place – With friends wherever it is
- Inspiration – His father
- Favourite Sportsperson – Rafael Nadal
- Favourite Celebrity – Shah Rukh Khan
- Wish – To win a medal for India in the Olympic games
Message from Harmeet to the youth
“One should have passion. Dedication, determination both are equally important. Not only in sports but in all the fields these things are necessary.”
Message for Gujarat celebs
“It is really a nice page. I like how they work to inspire the youth of Gujarat. They are bringing the talent of the state into the limelight which is very nice. I wish they keep up the work so that the new generation would know about the stories of people who experienced it. They can learn and take lessons from them. I hope Gujarat Celebs keep on inspiring people.”
Awards Harmeet Desai has received
- Asian Games 2018
- Commonwealth Games 2018
- Arjuna Award 2019
- National Championship 2019-20