We have a chance of winning Olympic medal, says Sharath Kamal

Chennai: Ace Indian paddler Sharath Kamal, who recently led Chennai Lions, that won the Ultimate Table Tennis League, said that India has a chance of winning a medal at the Olympics to be held in Tokyo next year.

Speaking at an event, organised by Chennai Lions to celebrate its victory in the UTT, Sharath Kamal said, ‘We are less than 50 weeks away from the Olympics. If we qualify for the team event, we start with a round of 16 and we have a little chance of winning the medal. A lot will depend on the draw and it is very much possible.’

Sharath Kamal also said that winning an Olympic medal will help in popularising the sport all over the country. “I think TT is on the right track. We had a fantastic year in 2018 and it is continuing this year. If we win that Olympic medal, TT will also be a household name in India. The moment we have medals in the international arena, especially in the Olympics, the kind of mileage the sport gets will be phenomenal. If we can make it, It is going to be the best for the sport for the future generations to come.”

Speaking about the upcoming tournaments, Sharath said he would be playing in the Asian Championship which will be from 15 to 22 September in Bali, Indonesia. He said the main focus is on the team championship in January 2020 in Portugal, a qualifying event for the Olympics. “There will be nine places to qualify right now we are at 8. We need to improve our ranking,” he added. The squad will then be competing in Pro Tours including the Swedish Open, German Open and Austrian Open.

On winning the UTT, representing Chennai Lions, Sharath said, “It’s a great feeling to win the cup after seeing it from the distance during the last two seasons. Our team went through a lot of ups and downs and in the end, we could manage to win the title. I didn’t even make the playoffs in the first two seasons and this year wearing the Chennai T-Shirt, the colour of yellow, it has been very lucky for me.”

The format of the UTT was changed this season as the teams represented different cities. Sharth said it was a positive change for the league as well as the players. “Having city-based team gave a lot more soul to the team. For me, playing for the home city was really fantastic. I think the whole format has found the right traction and hopefully, this will build up the reach for the league.”

Chennai Lions co-owner, Sameer Bharath Ram and Aishwarya Dhanush also announced on the occasion that they will soon launch Super TT, a Table Tennis academy for Under-10 kids. “We thought of ways to grow the sport and engage more people into it and we have come up with Super TT, which would be a TT academy for children below the age of 10 to start off as a foundation to see whether they can play TT professionally. We are also looking to set up our first elite academy at Sathiyabhama University,” said Sameer.

NT Bureau