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Achanta Sharath Kamal Hopes Table Tennis' Successes Can Get the Sport More Priority

File photo of Sharath Kamal.

File photo of Sharath Kamal.

Achanta Sharath Kamal was happy with his performance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and will now be focussing on specific training.

Achanta Sharath Kamal is a veteran of Indian table tennis and he qualified for his fourth Olympics when he booked his spot in the Tokyo Games on Thursday. Sharath Kamal defeated Pakistan’s Muhammad Rameez to make the cut. Despite losing the first group game to his compatriot Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, who also qualified for the Olympics, Sharath Kamal easily beat Rameez 11-4, 11-1, 11-5, 11-4.

Sharath Kamal qualified for Tokyo Games by virtue of being the highest-ranked second-placed player among the five groups while Sathiyan qualified by finishing top of the South Asia group at the Asian Olympic Qualification tournament.

Before the Asian Olympic Qualification tournament, Sharath Kamal also defeated world No.16 Patrick Franziska at the WTT Star Contender Doha and he was happy to produce a performance like that after the difficulties during the coronavirus break.

“It was mentally difficult due to the Covid-19 break. Before that, everything was going good but just a few months from the Olympics and everything came to a standstill. It’s like you prepare for something and then everything stops and you don’t know what to expect. That is the tough part. But I am happy with my performances this month and now I am going to be focussing on Tokyo Games," Sharath said in an exclusive conversation with News18.com.

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Sharath said the toughest part of the Covid break was keeping focus. He said even though he was working out at home and he had a table at home so he was able to keep practicing, the uncertainty was tough.

“Nothing was open. The first practice I had in a hall was in August. The main thing was to have the motivation to keep going day in and day out not knowing the plan or what is going to happen. We did get into a routine once things eased down but we were behind all the top nations because no one stopped for that long. However, I can to Doha, beat the world No.16 and I was happy to have started from where I left off," Sharath described.

Sharath did not look too much into his loss against Sathiyan for their last two matches (also the National Championships) but said it was a “high-quality match".

“We have played each other and knew what to do for the game. But we also knew that we could both qualify by beating the Pakistani player and hence, it was not a high-pressure game. It was more like a really good practice game. I am happy Sathiyan took the South Asian quota while I qualified with the ranking."

The veteran said the table tennis’ bar has been on the up since 2016 and he hoped that the benchmark they are setting helps the young players in the future. “Indian table tennis is continuing to do well. Since 2016, the bar is raised and it has only been in the upward direction. I am happy with the level of performances we are putting and I hope this makes it better for the youngsters. We are setting a benchmark that will hopefully get more priority as a sport."

Sharath said his training schedule for the Olympics will depend on the travel restrictions due to Covid-19 but he will be looking to get good foreign players in India to train alongside or try to train in Europe, April onwards. “We will be looking at the plan according to the situation worldwide. Both Sathiyan and I have our base in Chennai so we can also pool in our resources to get good training."

first published:March 22, 2021, 09:44 IST