Muscat, Living the Dream

Kumaravelu Varadharajan Kumaravelu, an experience to remember


Reflecting on the Muscat 2023 World Veteran Championships, Singapore’s Kumaravelu Varadharajan Kumaravelu who competed in men’s singles 45 years and with Jaikumar Janakiram in men’s doubles 45 years, most certainly enjoyed the experience.

Professional Table Tennis Player

This was the title I dreamt to hold when I was eight years old practising in my school’s beautiful table tennis hall. My family’s economic situation denied me the opportunity to pursue that dream, I was kicked out of the training hall because my shoes were torn. 

Fate led me to academic and financial success under extreme conditions. Not even in my wildest dreams that I thought that after 35 years, I would be renewing my dream again and pursue it. The remaining post is intended to inspire others who may think their childhood dreams are gone forever.

Participating at the World Veteran Championships in Oman was the scene of that dream (more scenes to come in the weeks, months, years).  It took six months of rigorous training under Zhang Dingji a silent master crafter of champions in Singapore.

I am very honoured and grateful to him to have accepted me as his student to teach the best techniques in table tennis to raise my level a couple of notches within a short span. I promised him that one day I will make him proud.

Personally, it required a lot of discipline especially when my birth certificate looks very old and torn. 

  • I had to maintain my weight to support the extra hours of practice, thanks to Sinaram Sarah Shamila my master dietician to get my protein, carb balance right and my helper who was tirelessly making all those special meals. 
  • Mental fitness was key as well. I realised keeping your mind uncluttered helped in getting that extra energy for your play.
  • Proper rest was important to let the body recover, seven to eight hours of sleep.
  • I planned to play with at least 100 different types of players in the six months since I wouldn’t know who I will be playing at the Championships.
  • Travelled to a few countries and few states within India, made friends and played with as many players as possible.  I called it Sports tourism.
  • Keeping fit and avoiding being down sick was important, so healthy & fresh food always. Ensuring nothing new was tried.
  • Above all, the determination and self-belief to overcome the pain in your body to get back to training, enjoying the play so much that the pain has less impact compared to the enjoyment you have.

I missed qualifying for the main draw in the singles and doubles category by a very small margin but made a mark in the consolation draw (this is an excellent paradigm of life giving you a second, third, fourth… chance always)

  • Lost to an Iranian in the Round of 16 who went on to clinch bronze.
  • Lost to a German pair in the quarter finals who are the ultimate winners.
  • Lost to a Korean pair in the quarter finals who are the ultimate runner up.

Over the course of five days, I played against players from 10 different countries.  Czech Republic, Germany, India, Estonia, UAE, Nepal, Ukraine, Mongolia, Iran, Korea. 

The event had 1,600 participants from 69 countries. It was not less than a table tennis carnival. Most importantly, there was pure love for the game from everyone. 

Everybody had a gift for their opponents, we hugged, exchanged gifts, talked about visiting each other’s country and on the table, it was super competitive. 

It was one of the most efficiently managed event with generous use of technology.  No announcements but computers everywhere to show your next match, brilliant work by International Table Tennis Federation, 130 tables, 96 for the competition and 34 for practice, arguably the largest in quantity ever seen. 

Thanks to Vivek Kohli. Chairman of Stag, the title sponsor for the vision and the grandeur. Oman hospitality is unparalleled. Sajjad Baqer, the VP of the event was always on, responding to whatsapp messages personally within a couple of mins. 

Many times, I felt there was an automated bot on the other side but in-person he is the best human being you can ever interact with always smiling.  May you live long happily my brother.

A large hall with 96 tables is not easy to manage but when you walked to your table at the assigned time slot, there was someone with the scoresheet like a clockwork.  As a tournament organiser, I can imagine the super hard work behind this. 

Oman, the country is so beautiful though its man made in the middle of a desert. Just had a few hours to go around important places like the Grand Mosque, Opera House etc.

Food heavens all around muscat. Unlimited meals, Sadya, the parottas with curry yummy!!yummy!!

Special thanks to the family for letting me live my passion and all my sparring partners in the past five years; keep practising.