New Delhi: The Indian paddlers raised the bar with their performance at the Commonwealth Games and Asiad in 2018 and now they are targeting a podium finish at the Tokyo Olympics next year.
“We are looking to qualify for Tokyo at the moment,” ace paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal told this paper.
“An Olympic medal is the biggest dream of any player. After two bronze medals at the Asiad, it was after 60 years that we won a medal at the Games and that gives us the confidence to go ahead. It (a medal at the Olympics) will be tough but we can think about it,” he added.
Sharath was a part of the 12-member Indian team that participated in the Hong Kong Open recently and on Wednesday he will take part in the Japan Open, which should give him enough exposure ahead of the Olympics.
He reached the Round-of-32 in men’s singles in Hong Kong before crashing out while in the doubles he and G. Sathiyan entered the quarters, defeating world championship silver medallists and World No.6 Alvaro Robles of Spain and Ovidiu Ionescu of Romania along the way.
The 36-year-old, who is ranked 33rd in the world, believes India can aim for an Olympic medal.
“The game’s popularity and visibility has gone up. It is all thanks to performance of the players in 2018. Internationally, we are beating top players. It is actually a pretty good system set up by the Table Tennis Federation of India, 11Sports and the Sports Authority of India. We have good funding, a foreign coach, the association is very systematic,” the Chennai-based player said.
The four-time CWG gold medallist also credited the Ultimate Table Tennis league for their improved performances. “It gave us the confidence to beat top players. The players’ performance has gone up after the league’s inception,” he said.
Sathiyan echoed Kamal’s views: “Table tennis is growing. The men’s team is doing well. The women’s team got a historic bronze at the Asian Games. It is a big benchmark. The juniors too are doing well and won the Asian junior boys silver last year. So our obvious target is 2020 Olympics,” Sathiyan said.
The 26-year-old, who recently broke into top-25, has said he is not bothered about rankings as he focuses on improving performances in big tournaments....