Poland’S table tennis star Natalia Partyka mesmerised fans with some magnificent performances before she lost in the round of 32 at the London Olympics last year. They were thrilled at the magic the 24-year-old weaved with merely one hand at the world’s toughest stage.
Mumbai’s very own Om Lotlikar has miles to go before he can emulate someone like Partyka, but what’s heartening is that the 20-year-old has not let his disability get in the way of his goals. Like Partyka, he too can use only his left hand while engaging in table tennis.
The sport has earned him fame but fortune is still elusive. The Charni Road resident lost to Mithilesh Pandit of Thane 6-11, 7-11, 11-13 in his first round U-21 match of the ongoing 5th state ranking table tennis tournament at Khar Gymkhana on Friday evening, but the result hardly dented Lotlikar’s morale.
The youngster is training hard for the upcoming Asian Paralympics Championship selection trials to be held on September 17 in Indore. “Playing in the normal category helps me a lot when I go to participate in tournaments for the differently abled.
I want to train hard for the upcoming Asian selections trials and do well,” said Lotlikar, whose father Rajesh, works as a courier for a private firm while his mother Arti serves home cooked food to people in order to make ends meet.
It was while playing marbles with friends as an eight-year-old in the Bedekar Bhavan locality, that a slab from a nearby building fell on his hand. So grievous was the injury that the hand had to be amputated wrist downwards.
Hardly the one to wallow in his sorrow, Lotlikar picked up table tennis when he began visiting the Kamgar Krida Bhavan in Elphistone Road to play carrom.
“It was traumatic for my family to see me lose my hand in the accident.
My mother suffered from depression thereafter. But she recovered and it’s because of her sacrifices that I am sitting in front of you today. After school I used to go to Elphistone to play carrom.
After watching people play table tennis, I wanted to try my hand at it. When I expressed my desire to play, the players there ridiculed me. It was only then that I started practicing on my own and worked hard on my game. Seeing my interest, my coach Narendra Chiplunkar, took me under his belt and taught me the sport,” Lotlikar told SUNDAY MiD DAY.
His efforts were gradually recognised and Lotlikar started playing TT for HR College where he earned a graduate degree in commerce. With not many recognised tournaments for disabled athletes, he won a gold and silver at the 6th National Paralympic table tennis tournament in Ghaziabad last year.
His aim is to make it to the Maharashtra state team in the regular category. “I feel insulted when somebody considers me abnormal. I can do what normal people do with one hand.
My ultimate aim is to be a part of the Maharashtra state table tennis team in the normal category,” said Lotlikar, who is currently pursuing his Masters degree from Mumbai University via correspondence.