Dr Chandra Madhosingh has devoted 60 years of his life to promoting table tennis around the world.
Originally from Vistabella, San Fernando, Madhosingh, now in his 80s, has performed several key roles for the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), including media personnel, umpire, referee, coach and educator, while sitting on several committees.
Now residing in Canada where he has also made a huge impact in developing the sport, Madhosingh explained how TT and other countries could improve the game.
He said, “Firstly, a country has to have a plan and the backing of the Government for substantial financing. If the Government is useless then try to get major sponsors. You will have to demonstrate to them that the plan will cover two major areas in geographical distribution and mass participation.”
He added, “You may have to start with elementary schools, then secondary, or if you have community centres you can use them instead of the school system. Once you have established this, then you must find a way to supply tables at a reasonable cost, and get cheaper balls for beginners or lower-level players. This will have to be arranged with the large TT distributors.
"In the meantime, it will be necessary to develop umpires, referees and different levels of coaches. In some areas teachers can become useful as umpires and/or coaches.”
He said a main driving force in improving table tennis in any country is the elite level.
“You must not neglect the top players, because they will drive the younger ones to reach higher levels. The wider the base of your pyramid, the higher you can reach. If you can show ITTF that you have a promising plan, then you may be able to apply for help in developing your coaches and players from bantam, cadet, juniors, youth, international players. It takes a lot of planning, work and above all, a lot of luck”
Madhosingh said he learned to play table tennis at Presentation College, San Fernando alongside schoolmates Pheerahim Khan, Arnold Mendes, and Errol Alleyne. Also crucial to the development of his game were top senior players at that time like John Alleyne, Guy Yawching and Neville Phipps.
Reminiscing about his early days, he said life in Trinidad was enjoyable.
“My family members and relatives went to Mayaro beach on Sundays after morning services at Susamachar Church. However, the best of all my memories linger on the festivities of Carnival, football and cricket matches and of course, I miss the spicy foods in curry shrimp, doubles and roti.”
Madhosingh migrated to British Columbia, Canada at 19 to further his academic studies, and he obtained a bachelor's in science with concentrations in chemistry, physics and zoology at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
“When I arrived at UBC there were a few Trinidadian students who knew me, or of me, and they integrated me in the intramural sports and I ended up being the university’s champion in singles and doubles.”
He noted balancing sport with his studies was no easy feat.
“At university it is very difficult to work on a science degree and keep a high level in sports or to work part-time, so sports suffer or you may find a grant or a loan, and there weren’t many of those.”
The astrophysicist entered the administration aspect of the sport in 1960.
“I sat on the Board of Directors of the Vancouver League and we organised other cities to join together to form an inter-city league. With Mike Grover from England and a few others, we became incorporated with the government and was called the British Columbia Table Tennis Association (BCTTA). We sent players to Toronto to compete for Canadian titles and won the women singles with (former English star) Joy Owens from BC and it encouraged our entire province.”
Madhosingh said one of his favourite quotes “motivation is strong when the pay-off potential is large” inspired him to continue increasing the popularity of the sport in North America.
While completing his master's, he took a job as a teacher in Vancouver and began working to promote table tennis. He volunteered his time to conduct coaching clinics and courses which were certified by the BCTTA. More schools became involved so he then formed the British Columbia School System Table Tennis Championship and became the sport commissioner. The league is still going strong after 48 years,
“Entropy can increase if it is given room to increase," he said.
Madhosingh went on to complete his doctorate.
One of Madhosingh fondest memory in the sport was being the chair umpire for 1977 Men`s Singles World Championships match in Birmingham between Japan's Mitsuru Kohno and China's Guo Yuehua, which still remains one of the most famous matches ever. A few years later, he was elected on the committee of the Commonwealth Table Tennis Federation, which he currently chairs.
The table tennis enthusiast still remains active by sitting on several committees, hosting table-tennis courses, having astrophysics seminars at UBC as well as at TRIUMF, considered to be Canada`s premier physical laboratory. He also engages in space science work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ames Research Centre.
Madhosingh has received several awards throughout his life from the sport and his jobs but says his greatest achievement is marriage to his wife Donna for 56 years. He visits TT regularly and assisted in the efficient running of the the Caribbean Region Table Tennis Federation Tournament held at UWI-SPEC, St Augustine in 2004.