Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games | Meet your Olympians

Four table tennis players have qualified for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, which also include the legendary Sharath Kamal – who is set to make his fourth appearance at the Games. Manika Batra will make an appearance for the second time, while Gnansekaran Sathiyan and Sutirtha Mukherjee will make their debuts.

Table tennis was introduced at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and Indian players have since appeared in the mega event. However, paddlers across the country have never come close to winning a medal at the Games. However, times are changing and the determination shown by Indians in recent times has raised hopes drastically.

Four Indian table tennis stars will participate in the upcoming Tokyo 2021 Olympics through three events. Legendary player Sharath Kamal will compete in her fourth Olympics, while Manika Batra will return after making her Games debut in 2016. However, it will be a first for Gnanasekaran Sathiyan and Sutirtha Mukherjee.

Now let’s take a closer look at the contingent itself –

Sharath Kamal (men’s singles, mixed doubles)

Sharath Kamal is a nine-time national champion © Facebook

Born into a family of table tennis players, he was destined to paddle one day and this happened at the age of 4. However, Sharath Kamal found himself stranded at a critical juncture at the age of 15, when the Chennai-based player had to choose between education and an engineering degree. But, he stuck to the first option, which saw India produce its greatest paddler of all time.

Marking her entry onto the international scene with her first appearance at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Sharath set off on an unprecedented journey into Indian table tennis. With eight Commonwealth Games medals, two Asian Games, two ITTF Pro Tour titles and a record nine national titles, Sharath’s legacy is one for the ages. The legendary player has already made three appearances at the Olympic Games, starting with his debut in the 2004 edition in Athens.

Despite his entries, his results at the quadrennial event were appalling, never making it past the second round. Scheduled to appear in his last appearance at the event, the 38-year-old is said to be eager to sign with a memorable outing. For the first time, Sharath would compete in two events at the Olympics.

Gnansekaran Sathiyan (Men’s doubles)

Gnanasekaran Sathiyan is the only Indian to win two ITTF Pro Tour titles ©

It is the moment when you are tackled to the wall that teaches you the greatest lessons and for Gnanasekeran Sathiyan it was appropriate. All roads led to Rio five years ago; however, her father’s disappearance fell like lightning, less than a year before the Olympics. Devastated and devastated by defeat, Sathiyan completely lost his focus and missed the mega cup after skipping the Asian qualifier. Testing times brought out the best in him over the following years.

Staging a remarkable turnaround, Sathiyan took first place at the ITTF Challenge Belgium Open 2016, followed by the Spanish Open victory in 2017, becoming the first Indian to win two ITTF Pro Tour titles. The paddler continued to add feathers to his cap, winning a total of four medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Asian Games respectively.

In 2019, the Chennai-based paddler hit a career-high 24 in the world rankings, becoming the first Indian to enter the top 25. It was the same year that he beat two senior players for reach the turn. -on 16 at the 2019 ITTF Men’s World Cup. As for the record in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, we should see something special.

Despite his entries, his results at the quadrennial event were appalling, never making it past the second round. Scheduled to appear in his last appearance at the event, the 38-year-old is said to be eager to sign with a memorable outing. For the first time, Sharath would compete in two events at the Olympics.

Manika Batra (women’s singles, mixed doubles)

TTFI © Manika Batra is the highest ranked Indian table tennis player

Turning down model offers, dropping out of college to focus on acting, a lot of sacrifice is required to become a successful athlete; Manika Batra’s story has it all. With colossal influence drawn from her older sister Anchal, the former has transcended herself to become one of India’s most prominent female athletes in recent times.

The Chilean Open in 2011 gave Manika the perfect opportunity to show off her talent, as she makes her way to a championship victory in the Under-21 event. From there, it just went up. Rising steadily in the graph, she emerged as an obvious inclusion for the Indian contingent at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, followed by the Asian Games in Incheon in 2014.

After a memorable outing at the 2016 South Asian Games, where she won three gold and one silver respectively, the paddler qualified for the Rio 2016 Games. An outing in the first round of the mega event may not have boosted her confidence, but helped her gain valuable experience. All of this will come in handy when it hits the table in Tokyo. The mixed doubles team, of which she is part with Sharath Kamal, is presented as a possible prospect for a medal.

Sutirtha Mukherjee (Women’s Singles)

Sutirtha Mukherjee to make appearance for first Olympics, in Tokyo © Twitter

Coming from Mihir Ghosh’s academy in Naihati, West Bengal, from which several national level players emerged, Sutirtha Mukherjee was following the path. Sadly, with her eyes set on the Rio Olympics, an allegation of age-related fraud surfaced with TTFI issuing her a one-year suspension. The hibernation was depressing, which led to her wasting, skipping workouts, and even forcing her to stop watching sports at all.

Overcoming the one-year hiatus, fear of injury and the motivation of those close to her, Sutirtha prepared to get her career back on track. Two national titles in 2017 and 2019 were exemplary replies to his detractors without uttering a single word. The move from the base of the suburban realm to the metropolis of Kolkata was significant, as Sutirtha began training under the watchful eyes of former Olympian Poulomi Ghatak and former player Soumyadip Roy.

Sutirtha’s long-held dream of qualifying for the Olympics finally came true earlier this year – when she shut out India’s top-ranked player Manika Batra in the Asian qualifier in Doha. It was a sensational journey for Sutirtha, who rose from 502nd in the world to the top 100. Now it’s her time to unleash the best game on the biggest stage in the world.

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