Tokyo Olympics: table tennis veteran Sharath Kamal Achanta has his eyes on the ball (and the podium)

At 38, Kamal is the rock star athlete of an older generation, putting India on the table tennis world map, before table tennis itself gained popularity in the country. He has nine national titles to his name and he made history by winning India’s first TT gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006. With unparalleled forehand mastery, he won. turned out to be the best in India. He knows sporting glory as well as the heights and pitfalls of success and glory. Six years after Melbourne, he failed to qualify for the London Games. Then come years of failure and injury: a chicken and egg spiral, leaving him in distress.

But, like the proverbial phoenix, in 2018 it reappeared: a national title followed by an overwhelming performance at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, winning three of the Indian TT contingent’s eight medals. At the Tokyo Olympics, he will play in both the singles and mixed doubles categories (with Manika Batra as a partner). Expectations are high for the Indian TT contingent – Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, another rising star, is also on the squad. Kamal, who has worked hard to develop his backhand, is eager to go.

In his own words, Kamal is now a “more complete player”, mentally, physically and psychologically. The pandemic has been hard on him, as it has been on everyone. Even though he spent the summer trying to find ways to train, with Batra in Pune and ISC in Sonepat, he looks at the big picture. “Sport brings out passion and emotion, a sense of equality and integrity,” he says. “In such a difficult time as this, it is very important to feel and show that the whole world can come together. “

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