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Manika Batra and Sharath Kamal with their mixed doubles bronze medals at the Asian Games. © AFP

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Indian table tennis aiming for Olympic glory

Date : 31 Dec 2018

New Delhi, India, December 31, 2018: A watershed 2018 during which Indian table tennis won its first medal at an Asian Games has led to a buoyant mood in the sport as it looks ahead to Tokyo 2020 Olympics with confidence.

Indian table tennis made the sport’s superpower China, and the rest of the world, sit up and take notice when the country won a historic two medals at the 2018 Asian Games after Manika Batra’s unprecedented showing at the Commonwealth Games earlier in the year.

Sharath Kamal, arguably one of the finest players produced by India, and still going strong at 36 said: “At the start of the year, if anyone had said we will win one, let alone two medals at the Asian Games, I would have laughed it off. It has been that kind of year. Best ever year for me and best ever year for Indian table tennis.”

The Sharath-led men’s team exceeded its own expectations by winning a bronze at the Asian Games in Jakarta after stunning mighty Japan in the quarterfinals. His younger teammate G. Sathiyan delivered under pressure by winning both his singles against higher-ranked opponents.

The dream did not end there as Sharath and Manika landed a mixed doubles bronze which has given them the belief that they are good enough to win an Olympic medal.

To put these results into perspective, it was the first time that India returned home with an Asian Games medal ever since the sport was introduced in 1958.

Apart from her success at the Asian Games, Manika also won two historic gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in women’s team and women’s singles. She later added a doubles silver and mixed doubles bronze to become the most successful Indian athlete at the Gold Coast Games.

The world number 52 ended the year by becoming the first Indian to win the Breakthrough Star award at the International Table Tennis Federation awards in Incheon, South Korea.

Sharath and Sathiyan too ended 2018 on a high as they attained their best ever world rankings. Sharath is 30th and Sathiyan one place below him.

In 2019, the players will feature in 14 to 16 events as they attempt to qualify for Tokyo 2020. While India can now aim for an Olympic medal, it got really close to winning one at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires where Archana Kamath went down fighting in the bronze medal playoff.

Source: The Hindu

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