A University undergraduate is making waves in the world of competitive sports, though his typical playing field may be a bit smaller than your average stadium. Instead, Vitraag Mehta ’17 dominates arenas as small as 80 square feet as an athlete in the world of competitive table tennis. This past spring, Mehta advanced to the championship round of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) held in April in Eau Clair, Wisconsin.
Mehta’s athletic roots began in his hometown of Mumbai, India. Starting in 2004, he began under the instruction of coach Pradeep Gupta. Since then, Mehta developed a decade worth of experience in the sport that has allowed him to gain renown as an international competitor. He has competed on behalf of the city of Mumbai and the state of Maharashtra. He has even once represented India, serving as one of the nation’s team captains at an international tournament in Bahrain in 2010.
While his competitive history speaks volumes to his skill and passion, Mehta often finds himself prompted to answer the simple question: “… but why table tennis?” The answer, to him, is simple. “It’s the fastest ball game in the world,” he said. Mehta cites tenacity, agility, and both mental and physical endurance as key skills required for the sport, all attributes that he’s proud to have developed over the years. He is most thankful for the opportunity for growth that he has received as an athlete. “It’s offered me another dimension by which to look at myself,” he said, accepting of the rigor and toil that the sport has demanded.
This past year was Mehta’s first experience competing in the American circuit. His competitive run began at a divisional tournament for upstate New York held at RIT in February. He placed second overall at the competition, earning him a spot at the regional level. The advancement to the next competition took him to Akron, Ohio for the Great Lakes regional round. Here, Mehta placed as a semi-finalist in the men’s singles bracket, which allowed him to qualify for the national NCTTA tournament.
The national competition was held in Eau Clair, Wisconsin on April 9th and 10th. Mehta entered the competition already ranked within the top 20 of the 80 qualifying participants, representing colleges across the nation. While Mehta advanced through the initial main draw of 64 competitors, his advancement would come to a stop within the top 32. Mehta holds no regret in this loss, however. “I went down losing to a very high ranked competitor,” he said. Paired with his final ranking among the top 25 young men in the circuit, Mehta ended the competitive season with pride.
Mehta enjoyed being able to represent the YellowJackets on a national level. “I took great pride and dignity in representing my campus,” he admitted. Competing against collegiate players that rank within the olympic level, he was happy to prove the caliber of skill that is not unique to U of R’s athletics. His efforts did not go unrecognized by the campus, with the Dean of Students and the Club Sports Council aiding in the funding and subsidizing of his travels throughout the year.
While this year was a learning experience for the rising junior, he also viewed it as the beginning of an opportunity to earn table tennis the respect that he believes it deserves. “I think it deserves more recognition. It requires a lot more physical strength, mental capacity, and strategy than people think,” he said.
Mehta’s competitive drive did not detract from his scholastic activities; he also boasts academic excellence in his study of financial economics. He also participates in Meliora Capital Management, LLC and the Debate Union. His involvement also branches out into the performing arts as you can also find him singing with After Hours Co-Ed A Cappella and the Association for the Development of Interest in the Indian Subcontinent (ADITI).
In sharing his recent exploits, Mehta hopes to be able to share the sport with others, both on campus and beyond. “I hope to be able to teach the sport to others,” he said. Though for now, he’ll be playing with the Genesee Valley Table Tennis Community (GVTTC), he hopes to form a club in the community to help expand interest. Through table tennis, Mehta’s ultimate hope is to imbue the Greater Rochester community with the same energy and intensity that the fast-paced sport has offered him.