In penury, Carrom player attains stardom

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Chennai, Feb 22 (UNI)The void between anonymity and stardom can be filled by one factor, at least in sport: talent. There are many examples even in Indian sport to drive home this point.

The latest to prove this is Tamil Nadu's carrom star L Illavazhagi, who although not on par with a Viswanathan Anand or a Sania Mirza, as it were, given a rousing welcome by the All India Carrom Federation and Tamil Nadu Carrom Association when she touched down at the airport here from Cannes in France.

Illavazhagi returned home with the world carrom championship crown, which she contested after bagging the national crown for the first time. But, in her case, the void has not yet been fully filled as despite having won two SAARC championship titles, a world cup title and being declared the world carrom-women's -champion, she is unable to find a means for earning a livelihood for her and her destitute family.

However, there is a hitch. The Federation officials are in a quandary how to help her and her family as Illavazhagi is yet to pass out of even Tenth standard.

Illavazhagai, is the daughter of a daily wage earner. She laments the lack of recognition to carrom.

''India has been dominating the sport for 50 years. Yet it is not among the competitions in Asian Games. Carrom must be included in the Olympic Games and if so , India would definitely return home with a medal'', Illavazhagi observed, talking to the media at the airport.

Those who felicitated her on returning home, included former world women's chanpion Anu Raju also from Tamil Nadu and the current India no 1 P Arokiaraj.

Another former national and international star and national champion in the sport Bangaru Babu, who is the founder-Secretary General of International Carrom Federation said that Illavazhagi's chances of becoming only the second Arjuna Awardee in Carrom were bright. She had failed to bag it last year. ''We also expect the Tamil Nadu government to honour her on the occasion'', he told UNI.

UNI VV SJ RKM BST1859

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