India have a very strong contingent in table tennis for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. The mixed doubles pair of Manika Batra and Achanta Sharath Kamal who secured their Olympics berth recently are gearing up to begin training again in Chennai.
The WTT’s China hub event was postponed beyond the Olympics so the paddlers do not have any ITTF events lines up to stay in touch with their game till the Summer Games. The spike COVID-19 cases will also be a cause of concern for the Indian paddlers and therefore they did not have many options for training.
In a recent interview with ESPN, Sharath revealed that he suggested Manika to come to Chennai for training with the rise in cases in Maharashtra. “Manika and I have had a chat and we’ve decided that it would make more sense for her to come over to Chennai given the worsening situation in Maharashtra.”
Although the players have qualified for their respective singles events as well their maximum chances of a medal is in the Mixed Doubles. Also, Manika trains in Pune which is one of the bigger cities in Maharashtra and it is the most badly hit state in the country with weekend lockdown and night curfew already announced by the government.
“I’ve also asked TTFI (Table Tennis Federation of India) to allow us to make use of more of our left-handed players, and they are so few anyway, in our sparring. It would be helpful in our doubles preparation. Right now the challenge is deciding how and where to train together,” Sharath added.
The 38-year-old paddler who hails from Chennai and will be gearing for his fourth Olympics was hoping to do well at China Hub events which was originally scheduled from April 13 to May 6 to keep his form intact ahead of the Summer Games.
“It was supposed to be our final tournament before Tokyo, now that’s gone too,” he said.
“Even if it was for a couple of matches, the idea of a competitive event at this point was mentally a big push. Now everything looks unclear. I’d want to travel to Europe, maybe Germany, Sweden or Denmark, for a variety in sparring but because of the virus situation it’s getting hard to plan.”
Another paddler Sathiyan Gnanasekarana who is currently playing in a tournament in Poland will be eventually returning to Chennai and will train with fellow national team paddler Anirban Ghosh. Sathiyan is focused on his preparations for the Tokyo Olympics and will look to give his best on the big stage.