Indian table tennis contingent’s journey at the Tokyo Olympics came to an end when Achanta Sharath Kamal lost his Round 3 clash against Chinese legendary paddler Ma Long. He lost 7-11, 11-8, 11-13, 4-11, 4-11 almost making the Dragon panic with his exceptional shot making. It was indeed a learning curve for the Indian paddler who does not want to stop even after four Olympics appearances.
Long has won three World Champions and a Gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Therefore taking a game off the World Champion and then leaving him guessing in the next game was a testament to the class and quality Sharath Kamal was on the night.
“His legs were shaking,” Sharath told Olympics.com after the match.
“I could see him shake. And I was happy I could put him in that position.”
“As far as this Olympics go, there are a lot of positives for me,” said the 38-year-old, who had reached the Round of 32 for the first time.
“We were maybe a little unfortunate with the draw, running into the team that won the bronze in the first round of mixed doubles. And facing Long in the third round today.”
While the scores might not suggest of any fight in the last two games, Sharath Kamal explains how he was close in those games as well but it was just that Long was gaining is confidence and calming himself down.
“Against Long, I got myself into a good position. Even the fourth and fifth games were a lot closer than the score suggested. I think after winning the third game he just became a little more relaxed and started going for his shots.”
Kamal made his debut at the 2004 Athens Olympics is in the form of his life at 39! He reiterates how he never said this to be his last Olympics. He wants to continue playing until his body permits.
“I never said this is going to be my last Olympics, it’s mainly the media that has been saying that,” he said. “I don’t think I have to retire just because I am 39 years of age. This is the most physically fit I have been and it has undoubtedly been my best Olympics. When I look back, there is nothing I could have done more or done differently. I have no regrets.”
With his entry into the ROund 3 of the Olympics, this was Achanta Sharath Kamal’s best ever performance at the Summer Games. So he is right about being at his best even at 39 and if he can challenge the best in the world like this then he should continue for as many years as he wants.