By Anupam Soni :
It is a matter of pride for the city as Mangesh Mopkar is the only one from India who will be officiating in Olympics. It does got get better and bigger than this for any sportsperson or official. — Adv Ashutosh Potnis, Secretary, Nagpur District Table Tennis Association
Nagpur’s Mangesh Mopkar to officiate table tennis matches in Japan
HE WILL be the lone face from India at the table tennis venues manning the matches at Tokyo Olympics in Japan. Meet city’s very own Mangesh Mopkar who has covered about 30 international events in his almost ten years of officiating in the pingpong sport. The 2020 Summer Olympics, officially the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, also known as Tokyo 2020, will be starting a year late and will be held from July 23-August 8, 2021. Table tennis events are scheduled to start from July 25 and Mopkar will leave India for Japan on July 20. Mopkar, who was India’s first choice for the job, explained the selection procedure “The Olympic Organising Committee asked Table Tennis Federation of India to send two names, one male and one female, with their track record of last five years. The data includes performance and evaluations at international events during that period.
I had started officiating in 2011 and have an excellent record. I was Indian number one that way and satisfied all criteria. The only fear that crossed my mind was that if a female gets selected, I might lose out on the opportunity but by the grace of god, I was selected,” Mopkar said. Olympics is once in a lifetime opportunity at least for table tennis officials. “The International Table Tennis Federation has made it a policy of not sending any official twice for a big event like Olympics. Their logic is very simply — as the event happens every four years and if one person goes for 3-4 Olympics, when will others have a chance. Olympics is once in a lifetime opportunity for us. The post is ‘Technical Official’ and I will be table umpire for the matches,” he informed. Organising committee is leaving no stone unturned and taking all precautions to make it a safe event.
“With fear of coronavirus still hovering around, there are a lot of restrictions on all those who will be participating in the top event. Officials are no different. It all started with getting the vaccination done. With no policy of vaccinating those under 60 in place for a long time, it was not easy getting the jab. “The Tokyo organising committee has sent a long list of do’s and don’ts and has urged us to follow those. They have advised me not connecting with people for the last fourteen days before leaving India and to avoid crowd from now onwards. They will require RTPCR reports of 72 and 96 hours before departure. No Nagpur hospital was included in the list sent by them to get the checks done. Then I convinced them that if I go to other places I would be more vulnerable in contracting infection and they agreed for Nagpur hospitals. They have sent three apps on which I will have to upload my temperature and oxygen levels and the test reports as well. I will leave on July 20 and then they will conduct daily tests there in Tokyo,” Mopkar said of the protocols to be followed. On changes in rules in table tennis, the 59-year-old said, “We have been told to be strict with service.
Earlier, players used to get away with wrong services. We have to keep a tab on behaviour and discipline of the players. The there is checking of rubber. Players used thick glues that enhances the speed, plus that material is more toxic. There is more change; players now can have rubber on one side of their bats with colour of their choice. One side will remain red. Earlier, there used to light of 1000 lux on table for big events now that has been raised to 1500 lux.” On the chances of four Indians — Sharath Kamal, the veteran who will be taking part in his 4th Olympics, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and the duo of Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee, who have qualified for the quadrennial event, Mopkar, who was a state-level player himself, said, “Like all sports, there are chances for everybody. If you have a good day, you might end up winning. If a world champion has a bad day and an average player has a great time, who knows? But having said that, it will be very tough Chinese, Japanese and the Koreans are among the best players in the world and it will be no surprise if they capture the first four spots.” Mopkar also made it a point to thanks all those who have helped him all along.
“Like charity, thanksgiving must also begin from home. President and Secretary of Nagpur District Table tennis Association and Deepak Dhote Adv Ashutosh Potnis respectively, office-bearers of Maharashtra Table Tennis Association and the top officials of Table Tennis Federation of India. I would also like to thank my parents particularly my father who introduced me to the sport and my guru Ganesan,” Mopkar signed off.