(Pix by Mushtaq Thasleem)

The schoolboy sensation who’s Year marked for the ‘Most Outstanding Sportsman’ award at the Sri Lankan Milo Schools Colours Awards Ceremony (2015) reflects on his chosen sport.

National table tennis champion Udaya Ranasinghe is an unassuming, friendly and well-mannered person who has made solid progress in the sport he has chosen. At the time of writing, the Vidyartha College schoolboy was nominated for the award ‘Most Outstanding Sportsman’ at the Sri Lankan Milo Schools Colours Awards Ceremony (2015). The Nation queried from the 18-year-old paddler what his thoughts are on his journey in sport so far and what it would mean to him if he were to be adjudged as the most outstanding sportsman of the year.

“Winning this award would mean that I am above other sportsmen who are engaged in more popular sports than table tennis,” is how Ranasinghe began the interview. He took this opportunity to stress the fact that unlike in other sports, winning at Asian level is akin to winning at World level because in table tennis, most of the world’s star players are Asians.

There have been only a few disappointments in his career which has been dotted so far with many achievements, both local and international. Winning gold at the South Asian Junior Championships in India last year tops his list of victories which is spiced by the three national singles crowns (Senior) he has won to date. He was nominated for this award at the 2014 edition of the colours awards, but his credentials didn’t lift him to the podium where all the glistering trophies and medals were displayed. Ranasinghe is a person who shares the happiness and success of others. He remembered another table tennis star Erandi Warusavithane walking away with the award presented in the female category, last year. He is happy that several table tennis players have been nominated for the most outstanding sportsman/woman category or the Emerging Sportsman/woman category during the last couple of years.

He is studying for the Advanced Level Examination in the commerce stream, but believes his future lies entirely in how much he is committed in pursuing table tennis. “If I am kept in table tennis and given the facilities I can qualify for the Olympics,” said the teenager.
Having had a taste of training abroad, he said a competitive table tennis player should practise six hours a day with the training broken into two sessions. However, he said that this is not possible in Sri Lanka because he has to attend school. At present he practises once a day with his training session running for three long hours.

His greatest fans are his uncle and grandparents. “I have to mention that my grandparents have been the ones who have motivated me to reach these heights in table tennis,” said Ranasinghe who also recalled the inputs made to his career by coaches Buddhika Dikkumbura and C.P. Liyanage.

But there is a special place in his life for national player Nirmala Jayasinghe. “I improved tremendously while playing against him. This shows that I can improve playing against stronger opposition. This improvement is possible again if I get more international exposure,” he said.

Ranasinghe recalled with interest the opportunity he received through Thamara Hewage to train in Switzerland and Germany last year. “There is a system there where training operates smoothly from gym training to playing table tennis. They play so much table tennis. Even when the coaches who coached me drove me around the place, the topic of table tennis never changed,” he reminisced.

He is at present hard at training for the upcoming South Asian Championships, Asian Championships and the Asian Schools Championships. He is also focused on winning the national singles crown for the fourth consecutive time and setting up a record.

Is there anything that his fans might be surprised to know about him? He maintains a Facebook account like most teenagers, but said that he hardly logs on now because this kind of activity makes him lazy. What about those who wish to cultivate friendship with him? The champion said that he is very open as a person and encourages people to meet him in person.

Udaya Ranasinghe (1)