Para athlete Deshapriya fights a battle off the table | Sunday Observer

Para athlete Deshapriya fights a battle off the table

Dinesh Deshapriya
Dinesh Deshapriya

Para table tennis champion Dinesh Deshapriya won a bronze medal at the Asia Para TT Championship held in Taichung, Chinese Taipei recently making the 35-year-old the only Sri Lankan for Para TT events and his success came with a price after he failed to secure an extension in the Navy.

“I will never give up the game and have a long way to go,” said Deshapriya in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer. At the beginning he was an able bodied player but with his leg injury now turns out as a para TT player.

Deshapriya lost 3-2 to world number four seed Koyo Lwabuchi of Japan in the semi-final which was a very tough game which lasted the full five sets. In the earlier matches, Deshapriya won 3-0 against Indonesia, lost 0-3 to Japan, won 3-0 against Korea and beat China 3-0 in the quarter-finals.

Deshapriya played in the Class Nine category as he has disabilities in both his knees and playing arm. He suffered from haemophilia from birth that now has affected his bones with osteoporosis with acute pain when playing.

“I won the gold medal at the Thailand open Para TT Championships last December and obtained 15th rank in this category. I could get a better ranking if I play in more ranking tournaments but cannot do so as I face financial difficulties. If I can get the 16th ranking then I have the opportunity to take part in the World Para TT Championship which is my target for next year,” said Deshapriya. “My final target is to participate at the Paralympics but I must first improve on my ranking by participating in more ranking tournaments. The criteria is to improve on the ranking by participating at three Asian level and one European level tournaments between January 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020,” noted Deshapriya.

The difficulties faced by Deshapriya has worsened as he has no job now. Earlier, he worked as a volunteer in the Navy but after becoming a disabled or differently able player he was refused an extension. Deshapriya hails from a family that plays top level table tennis. His two elder brothers Indika Prasad is a former National doubles champion while Nuwan Sampath has been a reputed player. They have supported Deshapriya with his adventures along with his coach Rusiru Tharanga.

The Sports Ministry and Dialog also have supported him for the Asian Para Championships. “Don’t forget I have won two Asian TT medals which even the able bodied players could not achieve. I forget all my disabilities and work hard to represent the country,” said Deshapriya in the hope of pursuing further in the sport.