About Sayeed Sultana

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It was September 14, 1936 when a girl, Sayeed Sultana was born into a family of six sons. As she grew up, she became the darling of the whole family. She was placed in one of the best all-girls school in the city of Hyderabad Deccan (India).

During the year of 1947, eldest brother of Sultana, Hamid Ali bought a Table Tennis table for their home. All the elder members of the family use to play and the two youngest, one i.e. Altaf and Sultana would sit and watch. Whenever the table was free, they use to make efforts to play just like their elder brothers. In 1948 while the two were playing, the elder
brothers entered the room and were surprised to see them play. All the brothers from then on started encouraging and guiding the youngest siblings. It was in 1949 that Sultana started playing really well and defeating the brothers at home. Someone suggested that she should compete in the Hyderabad State Championship. After collective persuasion and efforts of her brothers, their parents allowed her participation.

Against all expectations, Sultana defeated everyone in the ladies singles and won the championship by defeating the previous champion in the final. All the brothers were excited with her achievement and more attention was given towards her practice at home. Luckily in December 1949, All India Table Tennis Championship was held in Hyderabad and Sultana was selected to represent the ladies team and her brother was selected for the junior events. Due to family traditions, of purdah i.e. not allowing Muslim girls and women in public without veil, her mother was not prepared to allow Sultana to take part in any tournaments. However, with the combined efforts of all her brothers, the parents agreed to allow her to take part in that tournament.

For the first time Hyderabad ladies team put up an excellent performance to reach the finals of team championship where they lost to the team representing the city of Bombay. During the team championship Sultana lost only one match. However, in the ladies singles event, she won the National Title at the age of 13 years. She created a sensation throughout Indian Press by her consistent performance in only her second tournament and first appearance in the All India National Championship.

This was followed by her participation in tournaments all over India. In every province and state crowds of people came out to see a little girl with two ponytails who was consistently winning the majority of the tournaments.

In 1950, All India Table Tennis Championship was held in Colombo (Sri Lanka). Sultana once again proved her superiority by not only remaining undefeated in team championship but also captured the ladies singles and mixed doubles titles. She was once again ranked No. 1 in Indian Table Tennis and was selected to represent India in the 1951 World Table Tennis Championship in Vienna (Austria).

Mrs. Angelica Rozeanu of Romania was the World Champion in ladies singles. Throughout the team championship as well as in the singles event Angelica Rozeanu only lost one game and that was to Sayeed Sultana when India played Romania in the team championship match. As a matter of fact, Sultana surprised the World Champion by winning the first game of the match and losing the match in the deciding game. This was the sensation of the tournament and press as well as top players of the world gathered around her. In her first World Championship appearance, Sultana defeated quite a number of top notches of other countries but due to lack of support from the other players, India could not reach the final four stage. In the ladies singles tournament Sultana defeated American top girl in the first round but later fell sick and could not continue. After the World Championship was over, due to her popularity the Indian team was invited by other European countries for exhibition matches and tournaments.

London’s Wembley Stadium, where matches were arranged, had posters all over the place in the city of London with the following headlines “Come and see 13-year-old Wonder Girl Sayeed Sultana from India Exhibition matches between English Table Tennis team vs Indian Table Tennis team.”

When the Indian Table Tennis team returned to India, there were huge headlines in newspapers such as “Sultana brought glory to Indian Table Tennis”, “Sultana kept Indian Table Tennis flag flying high”, “Indian Table Tennis teams’ excellent performance abroad”, etc.

World critics of this game were unanimous that with proper training, International exposure, and experience, Sultana will become the Ladies World Champion…

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