History is being made. Even if Indian paddlers do not win a first Olympic medal in what has traditionally been considered a ‘minor sport’ by some in the Indian sports ecosystem, Tokyo 2020 will still be a historic opportunity for the country’s table tennis fraternity. .
While veteran A. Sharath Kamal will become the first Indian paddler to compete in four Olympics, Manika Batra will be the first Indian paddler to make a second consecutive appearance in the quadrennial extravagance.
The two also hope to achieve a miracle in mixed doubles and make their historic appearance even more meaningful next week. In an event that was first introduced to the Olympics, Sharath and Manika’s pair will be India’s only medal hope, albeit at a distance, in Tokyo.
The duo gave India their first table tennis medal at the Asian Games in 2018 and made sure it was no fluke as they qualified for the Olympics in style.
In a draw for the best 16 pairs in the world, it will be interesting to see if the pair can cause three upsets in a row. When it comes to singles, hoping for a medal might be too far a bridge for all four paddlers. It will be a great achievement if Sharath or G. Sathiyan advance to the knockout stages.
Manika also admitted that his goal is to beat at least one higher ranked player in singles. Less is expected of Sutirtha Mukherjee for her Olympic debut.
While Sharath, 39, will likely feature at her final Olympics, Manika and Sathiyan see Tokyo as a stepping stone to their primary goal in 2024.
However, if Sharath and Manika pull off a shot, the duo will ensure that Indian table tennis is high and much more than just a recreational sport.