MUMBAI: City girl Diya Chitale has begun her Commonwealth Games (CWG) preparations on a winning note when she claimed the under-19 girls’ crown in the World Table Tennis Youth Contender competition in Peru’s capital city Lima three days ago.

India’s No. 3 paddler, who beat Laura Watanabe of Brazil – the current South American Youth Champion – on her way to the finals, conquered Colombian girl Juliana Lozada 11-6, 11-2, 11-5 in the title clash and will now proceed to take part in the World Table Tennis Youth Contender competition in the Platja D’Aro (Spain) which begins on Tuesday (May 24). On this exposure trip, Diya will also participate in competitions in Zagreb and Slovenia.

“Some of the top world-ranked players are participating in these events in both the senior and the youth events. These tournaments will help me in getting match play exposure against the best players in the world. It also gives me the chance to train with my coach Peter Engel in between these tournaments. This is the best possible preparation for me as a build-up to the CWG Games which I am hoping to get selected for,” Diya told TOI on Sunday.

Diya was given exemptions from attending the national camp which begins in Bengaluru on Monday by the Committee of Administrators (CoA) running the affairs of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) for her current international exposure.

Diya says though she would have gained valuable practice at the national camp, she hopes to make up for it in the last two events of her trip. “The best part about the National camp is the chance to train with the top Indian players and to practice doubles. I have the opportunity to cover up for the practice of the double in the last two events in Zagreb and Slovenia where all the top Indian players from the camp would be present,” said the Santacruz resident.

Diya feels there will be tough competition at the CWG which starts in Birmingham on July 28. “Among women, Singapore has always been strong at the CWG. Australia also has an interesting mix of players that have emerged as strong contenders. Apart from them, hosts England and Canada also have some good players but with the mix of players that we have in the Indian team, I am sure we will come back with multiple medals.”

Diya’s coach Sachin Shetty feels it would be good if she gets a chance to play CWG. “The CoA had named Diya the best junior player at the recently concluded Senior National Championships in Shillong. If she gets the CWG call for being an upcoming talent, it would provide her the perfect exposure to groom her to perform at the highest level in the future.”

Source: Times of India