Former India TT player V Chandrasekhar dies due to COVID-19 complications

'Chandra', as he was popularly known, was an Arjuna Award recipient and reached the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games in 1982.
V Chandrasekhar
V Chandrasekhar
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Arjuna award-winning table tennis player V Chandrasekhar passed away on Wednesday, May 12, in Chennai. He died due to COVID-19-related complications, family sources said. He was 64 and is survived by his wife and a son. Chandra, as he was popularly known, was a three-time national champion and was the president of Tamizhaga Table Tennis Association and Director and head coach of the SDAT-Medimix TT Academy in the city.

The Chennai-born player, who had reached the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games in 1982, was also a successful coach. His playing career was cut short in 1984 following a botched knee surgery at a hospital here which led to him losing mobility, speech and vision. However, he fought his way back to recovery and served the game as coach. He also fought a legal battle against the hospital, which he won.

The paddler was a three-time national champion and a gold medallist in BA (Economics) and Law at the time of the career-ending injury.

Subsequently, sheer willpower helped Chandra return to 70-80 per cent of his normal mobility and he decided to focus on training promising players.

According to a few paddlers who have played with him, Chandra was one of the most attractive players and took risks at crucial stages of the game to unsettle opponents.

Chandra last appeared in the Indore nationals, held in 1983, losing to the eventual champion Kamlesh Mehta.

Chandra had beaten Kamlesh in the previous nationals at Palghat for the Chennai paddler's third consecutive and last national crown.

Mehta, recalling his association with Chandra, said it was difficult to find such an amiable character.

"He was friendly on and off the court. It was he who made topspin popular in India. He learned the skills at (Ichiro) Ogimura's academy in Japan.

"I spoke to him on the day he got admitted to the hospital (May 8). But who would have thought he would leave us all so soon, he added.

In 1984, he participated in the central zone event at Indore, conceding the final to Manjit Singh Dua, when the crowd booed and pilloried Chandra on some personal issues.

"I had known Chandra from his playing days and as an SBI colleague. You can't find such a soft-spoken personality like him," said Manjit, who is also the national chief coach.

"As far as his play goes, he was simply superb as a player and competitor. He has helped his state (Tamil Nadu) to several titles in team events as well. It's a real tragedy to lose a good friend and an able coach like him, he added.

Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) president Dushyant Chautala paid rich tributes to Chandrasekhar.

“I was saddened to hear Chandra's demise today. It was very unfortunate that table tennis has lost another person to the dreaded disease. We recently lost Suhas Kulkarni and now Chandra. He was a superb person, very soft-spoken and a good coach,” said Chautala.

“I have heard about his playing days and I was told how competitive he had been and equally receptive to his opponents, and a friend on or off-court. We and all those who were close to him will miss his persona. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult period,” he added.

Current Indian paddler G Sathiyan and former national champions S Raman and MS Mythili were among Chandra's trainees. Table tennis ace A Sharath Kamal condoled the death of Chandrasekhar.

"We have lost a champion who fought death 37 years ago. Saddened to hear of the passing of V Chandrasekar Sir. Table Tennis as a sport has lost a great mentor, coach and an amazing player. He made the sport famous in the early 80's. Rest in Peace, Sir," Kamal tweeted.

On his part, Sathiyan said, "Completely shocked and indeed a very personal loss to me and my family. Lost my long-time childhood & former coach & Arjuna Awardee Chandrsekhar sir today...Your memories and teachings will always stay with me sir. RIP."

"Playing with him for almost 14 years. From 1998 till 2012 I was with him. He let me play in my style. He was the one who always helped. He nurtured me. It is not only a loss for me, but for my family also," he added.

Raman, who was trained by Chandra, recalled his former coach as a very stylish and multi-talented player.

The table tennis fraternity in Chennai condoled his death, saying that the sport has lost a legend.

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