Pune, Jan 19: A composed Anusha Kutumbale shook hands quietly with the referees and her opponent and good friend Diya Chitale, greeting well-wishers after winning gold in the U-17 girls' table tennis singles category at the Khelo India Youth Games here in Pune. Animated gestures or punching the air were not a part of her victory celebrations.
“Today I got my shots and timing right from the beginning and I knew it was important to continue with the same pace to win. So I did not try anything extra and change too much in my game,” the Madhya Pradesh girl said.
Anusha and Diya had come face to face in 2016 in the sub-junior nationals at Rajkot where Diya beat Anusha for the title, but the latter avenged her defeat the same year at the Indore junior nationals.
Come the KIYG 2019 gold medal match, and both were again face-to-face, “I knew that I had the edge over her in our last encounter, so there was a bit of psychological advantage for me,” said Anusha, and admitted that it would not have been enough to ensure a win.
“I knew that if I took off really well and took care that complacency did not creep in, I would be able to keep my focus. Later I even stopped looking at the scoreboard trying to remain in the zone and finish the job,” said Anusha who beat Diya 11-3, 11-6, 11-1, 11-3.
Born in Indore, Anusha started playing table tennis at age nine. Anusha’s father Shreesh Trimbak Kutumbale, a state level table tennis player himself, used to take Anusha and her brother to the Sayaji Club in Indore. “He used to encourage us to try every sport. My brother found badminton interesting while I discovered a liking in table tennis,” she recalls.
Thereafter Anusha started learning the tricks of the game from her father who till date is her coach.
Before coming to KIYG, Anusha did well at the Cuttack senior nationals where she bagged bronze. “That was a huge morale booster as I had participated in the open category for the first time," Anusha said.
Talking about her preparations for KIYG 2019, Anusha had just a break of two days between Cuttack and traveling to Pune. “I just relaxed at home for those two days, as the senior nationals helped me to remain in a good nick.”
On her road to the final, Anusha recalled, “The win in the quarter-final against Nikita Sarkar gave me a lot of confidence. Nikita is an attacking player and I had to be cautious while playing her. In the final, frankly, I never thought it would be so easy, Diya is an excellent player, but today was my day I guess.” she said smilingly.
Changing gears from sports to studies and having passed the KIYG examination with flying colors, Anusha now has a task on hand to repeat the feat in academics.