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Hopkinton table tennis champs look to boost sport

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Featured: Sports, Sports

Hopkinton table tennis players

Hopkinton table tennis players (from left) Anay Bhardwaj, Neil Bhardwaj and Adelaide Luter pose with their trophy after winning a tournament in Rhode Island on Feb. 17.

Three Hopkinton students are looking to make table tennis more of a mainstream sport among their peers while participating in events around New England, including a recent win at the Southern New England Scholastic Table Tennis Tournament.

Neil Bhardwaj, Anay Bhardwaj and Adelaide Luter swept their competition in the tournament, scoring wins over Hillside School in the Semifinals and Hendricken Academy in the final on Feb. 17.

“I like the sport, and it’s been even more fun since we started to win,” said Luter, 10, who practices her game competitively four times per week and feels like the competition has made her a stronger player.

“I’m starting to do better and making my hits more powerful, speedier and spinnier, if that’s a word?” she said, chuckling.

Luter said she tried several different sports and, at first, table tennis was not her favorite. She said she prefers competition as opposed to just hitting the ball back and forth casually.

“It was pretty hard for me at first,” Luter said. “But after a year of not giving up, I started to improve, and it became more fun.”

The Bhardwaj brothers have always had a table in their basement. They said they started to play more often, and more competitively, once the pandemic began.

“My dad and I play a lot in the basement and we started playing a lot during COVID,” said Neil, 15. “We got pretty good, and we wanted to see how we would play against other people.”

Anay, 11, said he has enjoyed getting the chance to play against kids from other schools, and has especially enjoyed being successful.

“The competition makes me nervous, but I still try my best,” he said. “And I enjoy winning.”

The tournament that the team recently won was the second multi-school winter meet held at Rhode Island Table Tennis in Manville, Rhode Island. A dozen schools have competed in the events held in Manville, from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, according to Steve Hopkins, the president of Rhode Island Table Tennis.

Sanyam Bhardwaj, the father of Neil and Anay, said he is happy to see his sons take to the sport and hopes the team’s success sparks more interest and the possibility of school-sponsored table tennis programs.

“It has tremendous health benefits, both physical and mental,” he said. “And, in New England with the cold weather, it’s perfect. You can put a table in your basement.”

Sanyam has played table tennis recreationally for a long time, but he said Neil has improved to the point where his older son is able to beat him — and Anay, driven by a competitive nature, may not be far off.

“I am hoping these kids continue to play,” Sanyam said. “It’s a great sport to keep them healthy and fit, and keep them away from electronics and video games.”

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