Olympic Games: Sharath Kamal Hopes India Will Win A Maiden Medal In TT In Paris

(MENAFN- IANS) Mumbai, May 31 (IANS) In a career spanning over two decades, table tennis legend Achanta Sharath Kamal has seen Indian sports grow from a country bagging one medal at the Olympic Games to eight at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021. In this period, the 41-year-old Sharath, who will be participating in his fifth Olympic Games in Paris in July-August this year, has seen Indian table tennis too grow from also-rans to medal contenders in the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and other international competitions.

It is these developments in the sport, the support from sports science, international experts, and the government, has bolstered Sharath Kamal's hope that table tennis could reach its pinnacle and contribute to India's medal count in Paris by winning a maiden medal or two in table tennis.

This is also the medal missing from the closet of Sharath Kamal, which is populated by medals won at the Commonwealth Games, including three gold and a silver medal in the 2022 edition in Birmingham and bronze medals at the Asian Games and Asian Championships.

"Yeah. More than a hope, it's a dream. So when you look at my closet, I have the medals from the Commonwealth Games, I have the bronze medal at the Asian Games, but there's one place that is still empty, which is the Olympic medal. So, I hope I can fulfil my dream and that of the table tennis fraternity, which is also looking forward (to winning a medal). Of course, it's going to be very, very tough. Nevertheless, India has been doing fantastically well in recent years, especially since 2016, we've been doing extremely well," Sharath Kamal said during an interaction organised by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in collaboration with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and Table Tennis Federation of India.

Another reason for Sharath Kalam's confidence is the fact that India has for the first time qualified for the Olympic Games in Team competitions in men's and women's sections.

"And this time, first time, we have qualified in the team event. With both teams qualifying, both the men and the women give us the right kind of boost. And I personally feel in the team events, there's also doubles rubber in the team, in which India is very strong. In recent times, we've been doing extremely well in the double side, and as a team, we've been doing very well.

"So hopefully in the team event, you know, we are having our fingers crossed, but we hope that this time it happens in Paris," said Sharath Kamal.

Sharath said that the reason for his confidence is the recent progress made by the Indian teams -- there are three male players top 60 World rankings and two women in the top 50.

"Yes, there is really decent bench strength that we have and I'm pretty sure that in the years to come, especially in this Olympic Games and the next Olympic Games, India will have a strong team to build on and hopefully we can push ourselves at the international level to be, let's say, be among the top-eight in the world or even say, let's say top-six in the world," said the 41-year-old from Chennai, a 10-time National Champion who was honoured with the Khel Ratna Award in 2022 and Padma Shri in 2019.

Sharath said he is currently preparing for the Paris Olympic Games in Germany and will return to India after a few weeks to prepare with his teammates, especially on doubles combinations.

"Doubles is the most important rubber, I would say, in the team because you start with doubles and once you have a headstart there, you know, you probably have a good chance to turn the event, turn the match up. So it's very, very important to train in doubles and of course, I am looking at training in the doubles part also, because that's something which I do well and I'm good at that.

"At the same time, we're looking at multiple options -- myself and Harmeet, Harmeet and Manav. Manav and I. So, to see which player in the current time will be in good shape for singles and who pairs up well with the rest. So that is what our primary focus will be in the next couple of weeks," said Sharath.

The next training camp for the Indian players will be held from June 7-17 in Bangalore and post that, they will have another training camp in July, most probably in Germany. "We will be playing in the Olympic conditions (in that camp) with the same tables, balls, and the same floors and quite close to the French border. So the weather also would be pretty much the same thing. So we just hope we'll be able to figure out the double spot," said.

With Sharath also playing in individual competitions, it will be a long grind for him in Paris which will last for the entire 14 days duration. Sharath said his experience of playing in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, in which he played five to six matches every day, will help him maintain his chances.



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