Hyderabad: Table tennis has been one of the sports in which India failed to establish their existence at the Olympics stage. But their recent show in the Commonwealth Games in 2018, where they won eight medals including three gold, two silver and three bronze, has given new hopes from the four-member contingent to end the medal drought.
Veteran Sharath Kamal will be representing India in his fourth Olympics while Manika Batra in her second. Both Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Sutirtha Mukherjee will be making their debut. With the individual categories filled with top class paddlers, India’s medal hopes look bleak.
Sharath, with experience on his side, can march ahead in the draw and can cause a few upsets. But it will be too much of a task to expect a medal.
Likewise, the talented Manika, who had a stellar outing at the Commonwealth Games, is expected to add big scalps to her name. Manika sealed her berth by finishing at the highest -ranked player in the Asian Qualifying Tournament. She has won two gold –- one singles and the other in team event — in Gold Coast and is oozing with confidence. The 25-year-old Sutirtha Mukherjee made the cut by topping the South Asia group at the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament
World No. 32 Sharath Kamal and World No. 38t Sathiyan Gnanasekaran booked their tickets to Tokyo with wins at the Asian Olympic qualifiers. Though Sathiyan and Manika established themselves in the last two years, the presence of a strong field makes it tough for them to enter medal rounds in the singles category.
However, India have hopes in the mixed event which is being introduced this year. The experienced and young combination of Sharath and Manika has already yielded a bronze at the Asian Games. There will be only 16 teams in fray in Olympics on debut and if they can put in good performances and coupled with some luck, they can realise the dream of a first table tennis Olympic medal for the country.
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