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Sharath Kamal eyes Olympic glory

Posted March 31st, 2021, 10:44 AM IST

Sharath Kamal eyes Olympic glory

Thirty-eight-year-old Achanta Sharath Kamal is living his dream. Years of hard work and perseverance could help his dream become a reality in the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics. The champion paddler qualified for the postponed July 21 Games in both singles and mixed doubles events.

Having first competed in the Olympics way back in 2004 as a 21-year-old, Sharath has come a long way and is on the cusp of Olympic glory. “It was a dream of a young boy of winning an Olympic medal when I first took part in 2004. After 17 long years the dream is going to turn out to be a reality as I feel I can win a medal through mixed doubles events. This is going to be my best Olympic Games because of good ranking. I never had this high ranking of 32 in the world.

“Over the years, there were a lot of goals which I have achieved and constantly I have raised the bar. I started with the Commonwealth Games where I was the first paddler to win the singles medal and we have become a strong nation in CWG since 2006. But the high point was in 2018 when we won medals at the Asian Games, first time in 60 years. These medals particularly the Asian Games show, gives you the belief system that if you can do in Asian Games, you can do it in Olympics.’’

Sharath said table tennis has come of age in the country. “Now I’m recognized as Sharath Kamal in public places and that is recognition for the game. My goal is to take TT to a new high like badminton and where Saina Nehwal or PV Sindhu did for their game. We will do it in this Olympics. That could be a massive one. When Saina won the bronze in the London Olympics, the badminton changed for good. We want to be role models for table tennis like Saina or Sindhu.’’

The Telugu-speaking paddler, who hails from Chennai, said Covid-19 has taught him to be patient. “In March last year I won a tournament in Oman and then the pandemic lockdown started. It upset our plans. We treated on an uncertainty path. It was painful and with my age not my side, I had to battle it out for the next few months. I was on a little bit of slippery path and self-doubts had started creeping in. But I worked on mental toughness. After October, we got some hope and thanks to the TTFI, we got a camp in Sonepat. In that camp I got back my rhythm,’’ said Sharath.

He is excited with the young talent of the country. “Sathiyan has been doing exceptionally well. Manika Batra, too, has reached a new high. It was a good thing to play with Manika in a mixed doubles event from 2018. Incidentally our game styles are totally different and that gives us the extra edge. She slows the game very well while I have a power game. My best top spin is my winning weapon where even World No.1 might not be able to retrieve it. That is our strong point and that has helped to beat World No.5, not once (in Asian Games) but twice (in Doha). That gives us the confidence and we believe we probably can win the Olympic medal.’’

With Covid-19 cases rising, there is fresh trouble and fresh worries. Even planning for a training session is becoming a headache, whether to train in India or abroad. The fear of lockdown haunts us again. “Therefore we had to be meticulous in our planning for combined training.‘’
Hailing from a table tennis fraternity, Sharath owes his rise to his father Srinivas and uncle. “They have a big influence in my career. Now wife Sripooni is of great support. I miss my son Suyasha and son Tejas. I have tears whenever I leave for camp or tournament.’’