From a very young age, the fledgling table tennis talent called Soumyajit Ghosh had been making an impression. His rise was rapid which made him the holder of quite a few ‘youngest’ records that include qualifying for the Olympics as well as winning the National Championships both at the tender age of 19.
Now perched at No. 86th in the world rankings, the 22-year-old has sealed his berth for a second consecutive Olympic appearance at Rio in less than four months time.
Here are 10 things you need to know about the two-time national champion’s achievements:
1. Soumyajit hails from Siliguri in West Bengal where he was born on May 10, 1993. His father Hari Shankar Ghosh is employed at the local municipal corporation while his mother is a homemaker. His first brush with table tennis came at the age of five when his father took him to the Siliguri Table Tennis Club. It was his win at the U-12 National Cadet Championship just a few years later that got him seriously interested in the sport.
2. The talented youngster was soon spotted by the national table tennis coach Bhawani Mukherji at the 2008 Junior Commonwealth Games where he won the silver in the youth event. Under his tutelage, Ghosh started flourishing and he delivered by clinching a bronze medal in mixed doubles at the 2010 World Junior Championships.
He followed it up by grabbing the 2011 World Junior Circuit title at Dehradun.
3. He made rapid strides in his game and also improved his fitness by training in Sweden under the watchful eyes of the legendary Peter Karlsson. It was in 2011 that he had his first Swedish stint and since then he has been going ever year to Falkenberg to gain vital exposure and also to fine-tune his game further by playing in the Swedish professional league.
4. His determination and dedication were rewarded in 2012 when he, along with fellow Siliguri player Ankita Das, became the youngest Indian players to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. In his debut appearance, he won his first round by outshining Brazil's Gustavo Tsuboi, a player ranked more than 100 places above him at that time.
5. He added further to his record achievements by etching his name as the youngest ever national champion at the age of 19 in 2013. It did not come easy as he faced the six-time winner Achanta Sharath Kamal in the final of the 74th National Table Tennis Championships. But he showed a lot of guts and gumption to come back from 1-2 down to topple the ace paddler 4-2.
More domestic glory followed as he reigned supreme that same year in the singles event of the Inter-Institutional Table Tennis Championships.
6. He carried on his good form to the international circuit and annexed the U-21 Brazil Open title in 2013. It was a rare moment of success for India as Manika Batra and Soumyajit emerged victorious in the men’s and the women’s categories together.
7. Ghosh began 2014 with a rich haul of medals at the 3rd Lusofonia Games held in Goa. In singles, he got the silver by finishing as the runner-up to compatriot Harmeet Desai. He made up for the loss by taking the gold in mixed doubles and the men’s team event, besides a bronze in men’s doubles. At the Commonwealth Games that year, he reached the quarter-finals.
He backed up his confidence-boosting performances by making it to the men’s singles final of the Swedish Open in the U-21 category.
8. Ghosh stamped his rise further by re-gaining the National Championships title in 2015. This time, he defeated the in-form top seed G Sathiyan 4-2 with a ruthless attacking game.
9. He was instrumental in helping India secure the gold in men’s team event at the 20th Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships in Surat in the December of 2015. It was India’s first title at this event after 11 years. He had to appear twice for his country against England and he won both those matches to deliver a 3-1 victory to his side.
That subsequently led to his career’s highest ranking of 83 in March, 2016.
10. His latest accomplishment is securing a berth for Rio at the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament held in Hong Kong. The 22-year-old topped his group 3-0 as he prevailed over each of Achanta Sharath Kamal, Anthony Amalraj and Harmeet Desai.
Other things you need to know about Soumyajit Ghosh:
1. He is supported by the not-for-profit organization, GoSports Foundation since 2012.
2. His favourite book is ‘The 3 Mistakes of My Life’ by Chetan Bhagat.
3. When he is not chasing table tennis glory around the world, he relaxes by watching Hindi films and listening to soothing music. He also loves to play cricket.
4. Senior compatriot and Commonwealth Games men’s doubles gold medallist Subhajit Saha, who hails from his hometown of Siliguri, is his idol.
5. One of his regrets at the 2012 Olympics was not being able to watch Roger Federer live in action. In an earlier interview, he expressed his optimism to change that in Rio.