Meet Yogesh Desai - Table Tennis Ironman

By Richard Finn | June 12, 2018, 11:14 p.m. (ET)

Yogesh Desai is a table tennis ironman.

The Mumbai, India 66-year-old has played at least one competitive tournament for the last 52 years.

Desai has already extended his tournament playing streak earlier this year by winning his fourth National Championships title in March back home, but he will be adding some real luster to his endurance mark when he joins an expected field of more than 4,000 players from a event record 86 countries at the 19th World Veterans Championships (WVC) which opens play on Monday June 18 for the week at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

He has a pretty impressive streak going at the WVC as well. This will be his 7th WVC after playing his first in Yokohama, Japan in 2004 and he has only missed one in Brazil in 2008 when he was out with tennis elbow injury. He will play in the 65 and over division.

It will be a family affair as well as his son Manan and his older brother Harshad who is also a playing in the 70 and over division will be joining Desai on his fifth trip to Vegas. And despite having been here many times before as recently as 2015, Desai is always excited about what he will see next in this desert playground.

“Every time this amazing city keeps luring with umpteen number of new attractions,” said Desai. “I did visit the world wonder Grand Canyon with my wife in one of the earlier visits."

It is also a bit of a wonder that Desai has been able to keep his iron man streak alive after suffering a serious knee injury Dec 30th in 2002 on a fall from a bycle. He suffered extensive damage to his right knee.

“I didn’t have surgery but the leg was plastered for 3 weeks to keep it immobile. My leg was so stiff after plaster removal that it practically was not possible to bend it at all without terrible pain. It took three months of daily exercises for getting back 45-degree bending. 

“The head doctor to my shock, advised me not to platy competitive any more,” remembered Desai.

Would his tournament playing streak that had started when he was a teenager in 1966 come to a painful end?

“I however believed in me and slowly started playing TT and played my first tournament since injury after 11 months with limping leg and won it,” said Desai.

He made his tournament return 11 months later in Pune where despite a limping leg, he managed to win the 50 and over State Veterans Championships crown.

His injury and refusal to let it keep him away from the table has been a turning point in his life acknowledged Desai.

“Since then, I with strong self belief and love for TT not only returned to TT but won as many as 4 National Championship Titles in last 15 years. Today, I am indebted to Table Tennis for keeping me mentally and physically agile and alert at 66 to not only run my business but keep me younger than my age.

“Table Tennis has helped me to stay fit and young since last five decades. When you keep fighting on Table with opponents of all age starting with juniors in regular tournaments, age hardly seems to touch you.

“WVC has now last category of 90+ players which proves that no other game offers the distinct advantage of remaining competitive even at such advanced age. With such illustrated seniors around, no wonder I feel like being Junior at 66.”