By VERA ARMUS —
It doesn’t take long to realize that Latisha Shah is not an amateur table tennis player. Despite her 4-foot-10-inch build, every paddle stroke by the Claremont McKenna sophomore makes clear why she climbed to the top ranks of table tennis in her native India.
Shah’s passion for the game she affectionately calls “TT” arose years ago in her hometown of Mumbai.
“When I was little, my parents went through a phase where they literally enrolled me in every sport from soccer to swimming to badminton, but table tennis was the one that really stuck,” the neuroscience major recalls.
Although she can’t pinpoint exactly what it was that drew her to the game, she says a possible explanation of why she fell in love with it could be her family involvement.
“I think I really got into it because it runs in the family; my dad plays TT, all of my cousins have played at one point or another, and my sisters all played,” she adds.
While the sport may have been a family affair, Shah is the only one in her family to have reached national status in India’s table tennis arena. In the fourth grade, after winning a couple of regional tournaments, Shah was scouted by a top coach, who ultimately pushed her to go professional.
“From around ages 10 to 16, I competed at the state level, training every day after school,” Shah recalls. “Though the time commitment was significant, I really enjoyed having the opportunity to experience such a high-level of play.”
She says that, “luckily though, the gym where I trained was next door to my house,” adding that this was her secret to success.
India, which according to the International Table Tennis Federation is ranked as the 25th best nation in the world, has produced many top players, including world champion Sharath Kamal.
Shah believes that the sport is very popular in India as it is accessible to a great number of people, since the only equipment that is needed to play is a table, a paddle and a ball.
Although now officially retired, having suffered a knee injury that cut her career short during her junior year of high school, Shah continues to play for fun and has begun giving lessons.
One of her goals for the upcoming school year is to increase participation throughout Claremont McKenna’s student body. With help from other TT enthusiasts, Shah has created an official table tennis club and has plans to hold a number of tournaments throughout the semester.
(Written by Vera Armus, edited by Terril Y. Jones; Sept. 17, 2015)