Injury strikes, opportunity knocks
When an ankle injury forced Ashu Jain to retire from table tennis much earlier than anticipated, rather than respond negatively to the end of his sporting career, the American embraced and accepted a new challenge. Ashu soon found a silver lining in the corporate world, going on to successfully transform his family business before working on his own inventions, including ONGO – an energy spray aimed at athletes. By defining a problem he wanted to solve and drawing on his experience of being a competitive athlete, Ashu was able to use his injury setback as the spark for a successful new career.
- An injury forced table tennis player Ashu Jain to retire from sport much earlier than planned.
- Using his experience of the problems facing athletes, he developed an innovative energy spray and built a business in a field he knew well.
- Read his story and turn a problem into a business yourself with the Athlete365 Business Accelerator.
I competed in table tennis throughout college and, about four weeks prior to graduation, I made the national team for the first time.
I was left with the choice of either going to the World Championships or completing my graduation. There were about four weeks to go and I was spending USD 40,000 a year on my college education – a physics and mechanical engineering degree from a top-ranked engineering school.
I had all the support in the world from everybody, so I withdrew from college, went to the World Championships and came back the following year to graduate.
Unexpected Injury forced change of direction
My career, however, was very short-lived. In my second year on the national team, I fractured my ankle in four places while playing basketball.
I was never able to advance table tennis any further after that. I was on target to go to the Olympic Games, but I never did. It was a very sad, abrupt ending. I tried to return, but that was it for me.
While I definitely would have wanted to continue to compete a lot longer, I knew that physically it would take me a long time to recover. I couldn’t walk for almost six months after suffering the injury.
I was already out of college and, at the time, it was a business decision of what I wanted to do with my life. I could try to come back and compete, really train hard, but let’s say I go to the Games – which is obviously a dream for any athlete – then what?
Being injured – and I never thought of it as a positive thing until now – probably pushed me forward in my career. Maybe that’s the silver lining for me.
Starting a Business
I returned home in 2004 to help out with my parents’ furniture business. We had a retail operation in the US, we had seven stores, but they were all doing poorly – the business was failing.
We were on a downward spiral even before the recession hit. But, despite the odds being stacked against us, we continued to innovate, to try different things, to work hard. I had 40 employees under me and we restructured inside and out and came out of that ahead – because of perseverance and a refusal to quit.
In 2016, I sold that business, at a good time. Now I’m taking on a new challenge and I’m working on some inventions that are proprietary and under development. Most notably, an energy spray called ONGO, which is aimed at anyone who is into fitness, including Olympic athletes.
You’ve already got what it takes, so accept the challenge
When an athlete comes out of sport and transitions into the unknown, into something new, the confidence that was once at their core is gone.
But at a certain point – and I would give this advice to all athletes – you have to believe in yourself. An athlete has all the elements, all the fundamentals, to be successful in every aspect of their life.
So have confidence in yourself. Don’t just go out and get a low-paying, entry-level job. Go out and do. Challenge yourself in just the same way you challenged yourself in sport. Work hard, don’t quit and you will succeed again in whatever you choose – in the same way, you succeeded in sport.
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