Conversation with Ashu Jain – First ever Indian born Olympic Elite Athlete; Vice Chairman -International Table Tennis Federation

journeYoung : Your ultimate motivation

To be meaningful, to live a life of purpose.  I am not motivated by money or “materialistic success” but it is to be able to make the situation and people around me better.  I am often inspired by people that surround me, who ultimately motivate me to become a better individual.

jY : What was the scratch you started with?

No real “scratch.”  I was a table tennis athlete whose career came to a sudden end due to an injury.  I am the first ever Indian born “Olympic Elite Athlete” (meaning having represented the USA in it’s highest category of competition in any given year.)  I was on the National Team (of only 5 and 4 members) in 2001 and 2002, and competed in Osaka Japan in the World Championships for USA.  I was a high prospect to also make it onto the Olympic team in 2004 but in summer of 2002 I fractured my ankle in several places and was never able to return to high level of play.  A colleague of mine suggested I use my “charm and communication skills” and join the Board of Directors of USA Table Tennis.  I was a well known athlete and it was an easy win in the National election.  One thing led to another, and each committee I was elected into as a member, I was re-elected the following term into a leadership position.

As far as the furniture business, it was more a need than a want, as parents needed help.  By education I have an Engineering Physics degree from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  My degree comes from the Nuclear Engineering department, which was ranked #1 in the USA during my graduation.  I worked for only 6 months for Fluor Daniel (Oil and pipeline company) but had to return home to help parents in the furniture business.  I had quickly realized that unless if I have advanced degrees or work for many years first, I wouldn’t actually be doing anything interesting in the field of physics or engineering, therefore the transition made sense.  This was also shortly after my injury to it just made sense.

jY : Your closest to heart moment/piece of art/ work memory

I grew up with a lot of insecurities, even got bullied a lot.  This was the first time I thought, “hey, maybe I’m not so bad!”  But otherwise, which came at a big surprise to myself and everyone around me, was when i was selected onto the USA Junior’s National Table Tennis team.  I was asked to represent the country to a big tournament in Taiwan, in which I competed very well.  This tournament was really the kick-start to my table tennis metier.

jY : When you feel that you are falling, what pulls you up?

I have a belief, that in times of your greatest frustration is the time of maximum learning.  I have always taken a down-time or a loss as the greatest lesson.  Things don’t generally get me down, but instead I look for the lesson learned and improve from it.  For the ones that know me, they know little really gets me down.

jY : When or how you found your thrust, share an incident may be?

I am not sure if I really have any…I’ve been somewhat reactive in life rather than leading my life.  I have always been lucky in the sense that when the time was right, the thrust presented itself and I followed the route I was meant to take.  But this is part of being reactive, because I haven’t opened my own doors yet.   I think I can be a lot better if I live life on my terms which I don’t think I have to date.

jY : What is the big plan?

So jumping ahead and answering #7, the “big plan” is to live life on my terms.  There’s an actual new invention I’m working on so hopefully that will be something big and meaningful 🙂  All my governance roles are term based and I will time out of all of them shortly, so I will search for other ways to stay involved in table tennis and the overall Olympic movement.





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