It was 1951, during the World Table Tennis Championship in Vienna, Austria, Angelica Rozenu of Romania was competing against a 14-year-old Indian girl. It was known that Angelica had never lost many games in the history of the competition. All the sports correspondents, during the match, got up and went to have snacks. They were sure of the result – Angelica winning the match comfortably. To the surprise of everyone, soon people ran to the correspondents to inform that they had missed a historic upset as the lndian girl defeated Angelica a game. The next day, newspapers carried the news of a Salwar Kameez wearing Indian girl who had upset Angelica. She was called Cinderella of Table Tennis. The young girl was – Sayeed Sultana from Hyderabad.
FROM EARLY LIFE TO CHAMPIONSHIP:
Sayeed Sultana was born on 14th September, 1936, in a family of importance in Hyderabad (Deccan). Her father’s name was Muhammad Ahmed Ali. Being the only sister among six brothers, she was dear to everyone in the family. She was a student of Hyderabad’s famous Mehboobia Girls High School.
It all started in 1947, when Sayeed Sultana’s elder brother, Hamid Ali, brought home a table tennis set. Initially, all the elders used to spend their leisure time participating in the game. Young Altaf and Sultana would sit for hours and watch them play. When the elder’s disengaged from their game, these two children would try their hands at table tennis in the same way as their elders played.
It was in 1948, when both the kids were playing table tennis and suddenly their elder brothers entered the room and saw them playing well. They were surprised. After this, all the elder brothers not only cheered these little children, but also started to guide them. By 1949, Sayeed Sultana had mastered the game of table tennis, and continued to beat her brothers in the sport at home.
Meanwhile, an acquaintance advised Sayeed Sultana to participate in the Hyderabad State Championship. After the encouragement of many people and the efforts of her brothers, Sayeed Sultana was allowed by her family members to participate in the competition. And from there, a spectacular change in the history of Women’s table tennis in India was witnessed. Sayeed Sultana not only defeated all the players she was competing with, but also won the women’s singles title by defeating the previous winner.
In December 1949, the All India Table Tennis Championship was being held in Hyderabad, where Sayeed Sultana was selected to represent the women’s team. Sayeed Sultana’s mother was against her participation in the competition, as women were not allowed to go in public without veil. But after the continuous efforts of her brothers convincing their mother, Sayeed Sultana was finally allowed to take part in the competition, under the supervision of elder brother, Muzaffar Ali.
For the first time the women’s team of Hyderabad performed well, and reached the finals. During the entire competition, Saida Sultana lost only one match. She won the women’s singles national title at just 13 years old. This was her major achievement as she was participating in a national competition for the first time. And after this, Sayeed Sultana never looked back.
Sayeed Sultana not only won the women’s singles in the All India Table Tennis Championships in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1950, but also won the title of mixed doubles. With this, she was ranked number 1 in India and was selected to represent India in the international table tennis competition in 1951, Vienna (Austria). In Vienna, she won 40 out of 55 matches, beating number one players of America, Holland and Egypt. She was called ‘the wonder in the world of table tennis’ across the newspapers of Europe. Experts of the game believed that by the age of 20, Sayeed Sultana would be an unbeatable player.
Her performance in 1952, in the International Competition, held in Bombay was also unforgettable. Everyone believed that if she got a little more practice, she could beat any European champion.
In 1954, an international competition took place in London. Sayeed was the best player of the tournament. According to the sports experts of the time, Sayeed herself was the best, but India could not win the championship due to lack of good support from the team. Not to forget, she won singles very easily.
Sayeed Sultana was India’s table tennis national champion in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1954. Her family migrated to Pakistan in 1956. She too went to Pakistan and continued playing and won championships in 1956, 1957 and 1958. She was the table tennis national champion of Pakistan. In 1959, she retired and passed away on 15th September, 2005.
(For more info on Sayeed Sultana you can log on to http://sayeedsultana.com/ )