Pediatric Nephrology Division Chief Finds Fun – and Awards – in the Sport of Table Tennis

Dr. Vikas Dharnidharka at National Senior Games Table Tennis competition

Meet Dr. Vikas Dharnidharka:  Washington University Pediatric Nephrology Division Chief, solid organ transplant researcher, member of the Board of Directors of the North American Pediatric Renal Trials and Collaborative Studies … and table tennis enthusiast!

Dr. Dharnidharka recently won two 4th place ribbons in his age category in the National Senior Games Table Tennis tournament held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The tournament was sponsored by the National Senior Games Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to motivating active adults to lead a healthy lifestyle through the senior games movement.  The “Games” is a 20-sport, biennial competition for men and women 50 and over, and is the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors.

Top eight Table Tennis finishers in Mixed-Doubles at National Senior Games

Table tennis is more than just a hobby or stress reliever for Vikas.  “There are a lot of ways to relieve stress,” he says.  “I go swimming on some weekends, and I do recreationally play tennis … but I’m not good at that!  Table tennis I’m good at.”  He particularly enjoys the games part of the sport.

“Games involve skill, and there is physical exercise.  It takes you away and gives you a life outside of work, too.  I like all of that.  It’s fun!”

Vikas and his Mixed-Double partner at National Senior Games

Vikas grew up playing the sport, but not competitively.  “Growing up in Bombay, it was so crowded that most indoor sports were easier to play than outdoor sports.  You need less space.  With table tennis you can fit into relatively smaller spaces at the lower level competition.  Once you get to higher level competition, then you need the big spaces.”

After a 30-year gap, Vikas rediscovered table tennis a few years ago when he came to St. Louis.  He began playing weekly in the St Louis Table Tennis League and competing in local tournaments.  “When I discovered the league here, I was able to get better because I’m playing against people of all ages, all levels, and so my game really improved.”

St. Louis Senior Olympics, May 2019

In 2018, Vikas won a gold medal in the singles match and silver in the men’s doubles at the St. Louis Senior Olympics Table Tennis tournament.  In the 2019 local tournament, he won three medals: a gold medal in mixed doubles, a silver in men’s doubles, and a bronze in singles. 

The Nationals tournament was his first out-of-state table tennis competition.  “As a physician, there is really no time to go out-of-state, so I’ve played only local tournaments.”  However, last year’s win qualified him for the Nationals, which are held every two years.  He told himself that he may never get another chance to play in the Nationals, so he “took the opportunity” to go!

At the National Senior Games, held June 18-24, 2019, in Albuquerque, Vikas placed 4th in both the men’s double and mixed double matches.  “I didn’t have a rating before I went to the tournament.  Now, I expect I will have a rating because of my participation and placements.”

And it turns out that he may indeed get another chance to compete in the Nationals.  His gold and silver medal wins in the 2019 local Senior Olympics tournament may qualify him for the 2021 Games.

Vikas’ Table Tennis ribbons won at National Senior Games, 2019

Good luck in 2021, Vikas!

Read about Vikas’ research and “work-life” here; follow him @Vikas_R_D on Twitter.