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‘Khel Ratna was Highlight’ of the Year: Manika Batra Looks Forward to Tokyo Olympics in 2021 with Renewed Hope

Manika Batra (Image: AFP)

Manika Batra (Image: AFP)

Manika Batra said being conferred with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna was the highlight of her year and hopes things get better for everyone next year.

The year has been 2020 has been special for Manika Batra. She became the first table tennis player to be bestowed with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.

"It was a year full of challenges and opportunities. I think the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna was obviously the highlight of my year but we also so the pandemic enforced lockdown," Manika Batra told news18.com.

"I honestly feel the best thing that happened along with was that I got the opportunity to work on myself and my game. It was a good period that I utilised," she added.

"To be conferred with such a big honour tells you that you have really done well for your country and it only motivates you to do better in the future. I sincerely thank the government, sports ministry, the Table Tennis Federation of India and Indian Oil Corporation for the constant support."

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In 2018, Manika became the first Indian woman to win a table tennis singles gold medal at the Commonwealth Games and bagged a total of four medals - which included two gold medals - as the 25-year-old led India to its first-ever women's team gold at the Commonwealth Games. Later the same year, she made history again, winning a mixed doubles bronze with Sharath Kamal at the Asian Games in Jakarta.

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From Instagram live sessions with union sports minister Kiren Rijiju and leading professionals from varied fields, to sharing her fitness mantras with her followers on social media, Manika Batra kept herself occupied over the pandemic-hit year.

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When asked how she spent the lockdown, she said: "Mostly working out. I spent my time training and developing my game. I think I had the time to look back at my performances and tried to improve upon my techniques."

"I think there was a constant mental state of focussing on my game which played a big part during the lockdown. I didn't really have anything else on my mind, Manika reflected.

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Earlier at the start of year, Manika was dealt a big blow in her quest to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after the Indian women table tennis team lost to France in the play-off match at the qualification tournament.

When asked what her hopes were for the new year, Manika said: "Hopefully yes. I hope things get better for everyone next year."

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She now has her focus on the singles qualifier event, which was scheduled for April but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and new dates are yet to be announced.

"The aim is always to do well at such a big platform such as the Olympics. I am happy to be on the right track in terms of preparations for the Games and hope to perform well," Manika said.

"The plan is to take things one by one. To do well in competitions before the Olympics and go full throttle in Tokyo," she added.

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