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Preeti Jakhotia emerges as triumphant NEUSCA Carrom Champion 2023
Preeti Jakhotia : NEUSCA Carrom Champion
North East United States Carrom Association (NEUSCA) held their annual Carrom tournament, which attracted players from the United States and Canada. NEUSCA is a local non-profit organisation supporting Carrom activities, and this tournament was a true testament to their labour with the highest-ever participation of 116 players, with 30 new players joining the fray.
Amid a long winter, this tournament served as a perfect getaway for Carrom lovers. Roshan Mushin orchestrated a musical night by donning his baseball cap all evening long. Full of fun and entertainment, Mushin injected an element of enthusiasm among the participants. Then came the Carrom marathon sessions on January 28 and 29, 2023.
The singles event preceded the Doubles Carrom event, and the participation was impressive; 116 enthusiasts flexing their lumbrical muscles in an attempt to go for the ultimate cash prizes dished out by NEUSCA. While every participant came out as a winner, one emerged as a true champion, weathering all storms in New Jersey.
Preeti Jakhotia of California displayed her Carrom skills to those present at the Marriott Hotel in Saddle Brook, New Jersey and several international Carrom fraternities who streamed the tournament online.
Besides the players and their dogged determination, one of the highlights was the novel software, USCA 2.0, which was rolled out at the NEUSCA event. When one speaks of selfless service, none other than Navin Chandran comes to mind. A man who loves to speak with eloquence, Chandran and his technology team did their due diligence in developing this software, and it was his computer ingenuity that did the talking for the participants. Innovations have come up in several sports, and Carrom has not left a void in this department.
Panna Chowdhury, a gifted Carrom player in California, has been equally instrumental in introducing a performance monitoring and ranking system in the Bay area. As a result, Carrom players can use this software to track their performances, even during practice games. Now, that is taking the sport to the next level for individual improvements! Adding technological advances improves any sport for the players and audience, adding the ability to present the sport in a more digestible format. This new cooperation between sports and technology has added more flavour and experience to any already excellent past-time.
Before the tournament, there were rumblings of the “King” of Carrom, 11-time US Nationals Carrom champion Saravanan Chandrababu of Cleveland, Ohio, locking horns with the “King” of Canada, 2-time US Nationals Carrom champion Louie Fernandes. However, Saravanan was not in his usual element, and his game did not rise to the occasion, disappointing quite a few present.
Preeti Jakhotia of California came with dogged determination and challenged Louie in the finals of the singles Carrom event at this year’s NEUSCA event. In their previous encounter, Louie overcame a confident Preeti in best-of-three games in the finals. However, the tables turned this time, and they turned quickly in Preeti’s favour. Before meeting Louie in the finals, Preeti played one of her best games against Ishan Rizvi of Canada. In her second match against Ishan, Preeti truly pulled out her Carrom magic, scoring a white slam which had Ishan on the ropes. Achieving a white slam in Carrom is no ordinary feat, as players must pocket nine white coins and the red without losing a turn. What is even more impressive about Preeti is the timing of her white slam in a crucial semifinal match that eventually propelled her to the finals.
Louie conceded the finals after a 1-1 match, which surprised those who watched this epic battle. Eventually, talent, hard work, and determination rose to the top, and Preeti Jakhotia was crowned the NEUSCA 2023 champion. Unflinching determination with an eagle eye pocketing skills typified her skills. Jakhotia mentioned, “It was my first appearance in NEUSCA, and it was fruitful on many fronts and learnings I take back by watching many star players”. She further added, “Honestly, I never thought I would be the winner as my approach was to play each board and each game and try as far as I can go, and the result was when Carrom God rewarded the Cup.” Jakhotia was quite sporty in acknowledging her semifinal opponent, Ishan Rizvi, for his Carrom prowess and went on to state that the semifinal match with Rizvi will be one of her favourite matches. Jakhotia’s advice to young aspirants in sports is, ” Believe in yourself, work hard towards your belief, and you will succeed one day.”
Preeti Jakhotia: Singles Carrom Champion NEUSCA 2023
Ishan Rizvi, who missed out on playing the singles finals after his loss to Preeti, made amends by winning the Doubles Championship by partnering with R. Ghuge. The Canadian pair took on the craftily talented Ohio pair of Ranjit Sapre and Venu Mukkera.
A Carrom extravaganza was no less enjoyable for the participants, especially regarding gastronomy. Hyderabadi cuisine made at Dosa and Biryani House in Saddle Brook added spice to the event, serving seven meals with interspersed tea and snacks. The players were well-fed but had to play plenty to tire out their fingers and wrists. Ultimately, Carrom was a winner. It was gratifying to witness 30 new participants in this event.
Carrom is undeniably gathering momentum in the USA and Canada. Balaji Parthasarathy and his team at the United States Carrom Association have been working tirelessly in their attempts to provide innovations to the sport constantly. Balaji even made a personal appearance – much akin to a Bollywood star appearing in the muhurat of their new movie release.
Abul Shakeel Baig was the mastermind behind the success of NEUSCA 2023. His presence for all participants seemed quite comforting, and in his inimitable calm and collected demeanour, he tactfully marshalled his resources throughout the event. Like in cricket, where you need a non-striker partner to form a batting unit at the crease, Shakeel was surrounded by an army of exemplary volunteers. Arshad Shaik, with his announcements, kept everyone on their toes, ensuring timely matches for all participants. Besides Shaik’s frequent stage presence, Prabhu Raj and Sandeep Dusa went out of their way to make all participants feel comfortable throughout the competition. It felt like a large family get-together of Carrom lovers of all levels of expertise.
For anyone who wants to participate in future Carrom events, please visit the webpage uscarrom.org
HiINDiA Sports Desk
Dr Nilesh D. Mehta