Chennai, Jan 6: Table Tennis Olympic Qualifiers is scheduled between 22 and 26 January in Portugal. With tough and talented paddlers like G Sathyan, Harmeet Desai, Anthony Amalraj and Manav Thakkar along with Table Tennis champ Sharath Kamal on board, the Indian Table Tennis men’s team is all set to give an arduous fight to world’s best Japan, South Korea, China and Germany.
Being World No.9 according to the recent stats, the team has a fair chance says Sharath Kamal. Interacting with News Today, the World No.33 tells about his aspiration and excitement towards Olympics 2020 with passion-thick voice.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Tell us about the Indian Table Tennis team’s passionate dream to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.
Preliminary to the Olympics 2020, it is obligatory to qualify from the Olympic Qualifiers which is scheduled between 22 and 26 January in Portugal. Qualifying in this would fetch us a chance to compete in the Olympics. With proficient players on board, we stand a fair chance to qualify. On qualifying, it would be the first-ever time, India will take part as a team in Olympics’ history for India has played singles and doubles already.
Q: How is it to travel without a Coach?
Since the last Asian games (1 year and 2 months), the Indian Table Tennis team doesn’t have a coach. As a consequence, there are a lot of issues coming up, especially in organisational and administrative concern. Obliged, Table Tennis Federation Of India (TTFI) and Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) have been providing us with exceeding support. They nurture the administrative, organisational and financial offices. There are ascending interviews that come up every day regarding the absence of a coach. However, we (players) possess an inordinate spirit and are performing well. Of course, we would like to have a coach but we are able to manage without a coach as well.
Q: How are you striving together as a team?
I, as the senior-most player in the team, help the junior players thrive. On the other hand Sathiyan, the contemporary best in the world is taking over the lead suggesting how it could be worked out. We had organized a ten days camp here recently. We decided on the dates and came together to practice. I’m quite satisfied with the camp. So, as said earlier, there is a great
spirit and prevailing confidence among us overcoming the difficulties we face without a coach.
Q: Can you elaborate on the practice camp that was held recently?
The training camp which was held between 20 and 30 of December was primarily focussed on practising Doubles for the Qualifiers. We are organizing another camp between January 16 and 20 in Germany, where we would practice with intent about the strategising tactics where we would experiment our best combination and strength against each team we have chance to play
Q: Tell us about the new format adopted in the Olympics.
The Olympics will have a unique format where we would start with doubles, followed by four singles. This format is neither adopted in Asian Championship nor World nor European championships. We should hit the right strategizing and adaptation tactics as this format is a big deal.
Q: How did you feel when you won the Senior National Championship for the ninth time?
I won the National Championship this year becoming the first-ever player to win Senior National Championships nine times. I have won nine times over 16 years which is quite a low ratio (chuckles). Between 2006 and 2010, I won about four times which clearly marked me the no. 1 player then.
However, I have never intended to break the record of Kamlesh Mehta, as I have grown up seeing his performance. But I was under pressure to win the championship as everyone around me wished the same. Now they want to win the 10 th time as well but the ultimate focus is Olympics.
Q: How Table Tennis and the importance given to it evolved over the years?
The importance to Table Tennis has evolved over the years, especially since 2018, when we won three gold in Commonwealth Games. Since then the performance by the players have been impressive and the awareness about the same have been better. The commonwealth that year had laid a promising platform for Manika Batra, G Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai. When a bunch of players from a sport emerge in limelight, it is good for the sport. I fled to Germany with the aspiration to get international exposure. But now the very same format is brought to India by Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT). What I was yearning then in 2003-04, is happening right now which is overwhelming.
(Article written by Afrin Fowmitha)