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Ajay Arora, a skilled and stylish left-handed carrom player, emerged as the triumphant champion in the highly anticipated XXVII US Nationals Carrom Championship held in Cleveland, Ohio. Facing off against the formidable Saravan Chandrababu, an 11-time champion in the Singles event, Arora secured his spot after defeating Louis Fernandes of Canada. Currently holding the top ranking in the United States, Arora aspired to etch his name among the esteemed carrom champions. Despite a setback in the first match with a score of 6-25, Arora showcased his resilience and mounted a fantastic recovery, winning the second match with a commanding score of 25-9. Undeterred, he confidently dominated the third and decisive match, securing victory over the renowned Carrom icon of the United States.
Although Arora held the coveted top ranking in the United States, the anticipation was that Louis Fernandes or Preeti Jakhotia would be the contenders against Saravanan Chandrababu. Arora had previously represented the United States National Carrom team in international tournaments, a testament to his unwavering commitment, relentless dedication, and unwavering determination to claim the singles Carrom championship.
An exuberant Arora shared his insight in a television interview following his Singles win, stating, “Hard work paves the path to success. I dedicated myself to this tournament, and my efforts have paid off.” Elated by his achievement, Arora added, “Becoming the Singles champion has been my lifelong dream, and I am thrilled to have realised it.”
The US Nationals Carrom Championship marked several historic milestones. Notably, it was the first time in US Carrom history that a major tournament relied entirely on a paperless scoring system, made possible by the newly developed Tech Platform 2.0 by the United States Carrom Association. The technology streamlined various time-consuming processes, including registration, check-in, matchups, standings, and score entry, allowing players to handle these tasks using their mobile phones conveniently. Additionally, select matches were broadcast on Willow TV, further expanding the reach of the championship. Another first was a “pitch report” on the status of Carrom boards, highlighting the potential imperfections and personality of Carrom boards.
Continuing a tradition established at the 2019 US Nationals, a Carrom 101 session took place to introduce the sport to local children. Headed by coach Sam Mallisetti, the hour-long program engaged 40 kids, who received certificates and tournament-grade strikers as souvenirs of the experience.
Report by: Dr Nilesh D. Mehta