India grabs lion’s share of Tokyo 2020 table tennis places

Manika Batra and Sharath Kamal pose after winning the mixed doubles event in Doha.© Manika Batra/Facebook
Manika Batra and Sharath Kamal pose after winning the mixed doubles event in Doha.© Manika Batra/Facebook

Doha, Qatar, March 21, 2021: There was double joy for India’s top table tennis player Manika Batra and men’s veteran Sharath Kamal as the duo booked their spots in both the singles and mixed doubles events at Tokyo 2020.

Batra and Kamal are among four Indian players who qualified by finishing top of the South Asia group at the Asian Olympic Qualification tournament which ended in Doha on Saturday, March 20.

There was also success for players from Iran, Kazakhstan, Singapore and Thailand at the three-day tournament where players battled it out in men’s singles and women’s singles competition on a regional basis – Central Asia, South Asia and South East Asia – with only one berth available.

The West Asia tickets had been decided last year in Amman, Jordan, while Mongolian duo Lkhagvasuren Enkhbat and Bolor Erdene Batmunkh were given a quota place each for East Asia in the men’s and women’s singles events respectively. 

In the men’s singles competition in Doha, Iran’s Nima Alamian, Indian Gnanasekeran Sathiyan and Clarence Chew from Singapore won their respective regions to win Olympic tickets. 

Iranian Alamian beat Uzbekistan’s Zokhid Kenjaev in a gruelling match, coming back after dropping the first two games to win 4-2 and top the Central Asia group. 

India’s Sathiyan topped the South Asia group, including a victory over compatriot Kamal, to earn his ticket.

In an all-Singapore final in the South East Asia group, Chew defeated top seed Pang Yew En Koen to qualify.

In the women’s singles, Anastassiya Lavrova from Kazakhstan, India’s Sutirtha Mukherjee and Thai Orawan Paranang qualified for the Olympics by topping their respective groups.

Kazakhstan’s Lavrova defeated surprise package from Uzbekistan, sixth seed Markhabo Magdieva, in the Central Asian group to win her ticket to the Japanese capital. 

Mukherjee stunned fellow-Indian and favourite Batra in the South Asian final to make it to her first Olympics. Thailand’s Paranang finished unbeaten with wins over Filipino duo Janna Romero and Rose Jean Fadol, and Indonesia’s Siti Amina to top the South East Asia group.

But Commonwealth Games gold medallist Batra was still smiling as she along with men’s compatriot Kamal, also booked their tickets after qualifying as the highest-ranked second players at the Asian qualifiers. 

It will be a fourth Olympic appearance for the 38-year-old Kamal while Batra will be returning to the Games after debuting at 2016 Rio. 

There was further joy for the pair who teamed up to beat top seeds Lee Sang-u and Jeon Ji-hee of Korea in a hotly contested final to earn the solitary berth available for the mixed doubles Olympic competition. 

Asian Qualifiers

Men’s Singles

Central Asia – Nima Alamian (Iran)

South Asia – Gnanasekeran Sathiyan (India)

South East Asia – Clarence Chew (Singapore)

East Asia – Lkhagvasuren Enkhbat (Mongolia)

Women’s Singles

Central Asia – Anastassiya Lavrova (Kazakhstan)

South Asia – Sutirtha Mukherjee (India)

South East Asia – Orawan Paranang (Thailand)

East Asia – Bolor Erdene Batmunkh

Mixed Doubles

Sharath Kamal/Manika Batra (India)