Olympic countdown: Kamal hopes to do well in Oly swansong

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Achanta Sharath Kamal

By B. Shrikant

In March 2020, Achanta Sharath Kamal, India’s most experienced table tennis player at the Tokyo Olympics, was on a new high after winning the ITTF Challenge Plus Oman Open in Muscat — his first Pro Tour title after 2010, when he won the Egypt Open.

The title was a big boost for him ahead of the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in May as an improved ranking would have got him a better draw.

The Oman Open was also significant for him because it was held just when the Novel Coronavirus pandemic was spreading and the Covid-19 restrictions were coming into force. On rushing back home from Oman, Sharath had to undergo strict home quarantine.

The 2020 season was suspended and Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament was postponed as the pandemic spread like wildfire across the world, eventually resulting in the Tokyo Olympics being postponed by a year.

The pandemic sucked away the momentum that Sharath had built after hard training of three-four months because everyone was confined to their homes due to nationwide lockdown.

Now, having recovered some lost ground with high-intensity training camps — at home in Chennai and in Sinonepat in Haryana, Sharath is raring to go Tokyo and try his best. Currently ranked 32 in the world, Sharath has had the best ranking of 30 in May 2019.

Getting up and fighting again after every setback has been Sharath Kamal’s story as he gets ready to represent the country in his fourth Olympics.

The 39-year-old, who is employed with Indian Oil Corporation, has been India’s top table tennis player for two decades, winning numerous titles at the national and international level.

In his chequered career, Sharath, who played in professional leagues in Germany, Sweden, and Spain, has bagged four gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, including a singles title in 2006 in Melbourne and men’s team gold in 2006 and 2018. In the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, he bagged gold in men’s doubles partnering Subhajit Saha.

In the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Sharath won bronze in the men’s team event and in mixed doubles with Manika Batra, with whom he will be partnering in Tokyo Olympics.

Initially coached by his father, Sharath made his Olympic debut in 2004 in Athens and had reached the second round. He could have been playing his fifth Olympics if he had missed qualifying for the 2012 Games in London.

Playing in four Olympics is a big achievement as it takes a lot of effort to sustain enthusiasm and energy for such a long period.

Having done that, Sharath is now hoping for one final swansong as this will be his last Olympic Games. (IANS)

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