Indian paddlers confident of a good show at London Olympics

New Delhi:  The Indian paddlers’ participation in Olympics since the Games in 1988—table tennis was introduced at Seoul—may not have yielded the desired results of winning medals, the ultimate dream of each and every athlete appearing on the biggest stage, Games after Games. Yet the stage is such that it can, at times, bring out the best in an athlete, thanks to some jaw-dropping performances of co-athletes.

Ask Kamlesh Mehta, Chetan Baboor and Achanta Sharath Kamal, all multiple Olympians, and they will vouch for one thing: the satisfaction of competing against the best in business. Yes, they do feel disappointed about not making it to the podium. But they are quick to point out how well their opponents have been and where the Indian paddlers stand. “The system, the infrastructure and, above all, the sheer number of players in China are the reasons for success,” says Mehta, who is now a national selector. “But our boys and girls are making progress gradually,” he adds.

He is right in more ways than one because since the discipline was introduced at Seoul in 1988,only nine players have participated in Olympics, prior to Soumyajit Ghosh and Ankita Das, who qualified for the London Games through regional quota at the Asian Qualifiers in Hong Kong. To expect any medal from the two is foolhardy.Not that the two teenagers from Siliguri are already counting the chicken, nor the foreign coach from Poland Leszek Kucharski, who will be accompanying the two to London, nor the federation.

The two paddlers, who returned from a trip to China where they were preparing for the Olympics, were upbeat. Without showing any nerves, the two were happy about the opportunity the Games would provide. “We know what to expect, but not limiting ourselves.Qualifying for the Games, ahead of top players like Sharath Kamal, Amal Raj and the likes of Poulami and Shamini, has given us a real thrill. We will play our  best and put in cent percent efforts. We can assure you that,” said Ghosh even as Ankita nodded in agreement.  

Coach Kucharski, too,is sure of one thing from his wards. “The two are mentally strong and prepared.They are capable of springing a surprise or two but I will be happy if they make it to the main draw. Anything else will be a bonus,” said the coach even as he and his wards went through the pre-departure procedures, which included collecting their kits, etc. here today.

For the record, only Chetan Baboor holds the rare honour of competing in three Games—Barcelona,Atlanta and Sydney—while Sujoy Ghorpade, Kamlesh Mehta and Niyati Roy Shah have competed at two Games, in Seoul and Barcelona, whereas Sharath Kamal went to both Athens and Beijing Olympics. Other Olympians in the game include Ambika Radhika (Atlanta), Poulomi Ghatak and S. Raman (doubles only) went to Sydney, Mouma Das (Athens) and Neha Aggarwal (Beijing).

Of the entire lot, Kamlesh Mehta won four matches when pitted in a group of seven players when the discipline was first introduced in 1988. Ghorpade too managed a couple of victories in singles besides winning a doubles match when the two combined in Seoul.Among the rest, only Sharath Kamal had entered the round of 64 of the main draw on both occasions he had competed at the Games. Mouma Das had entered the main draw at Athens but bowed out in the round of 128. 

Hence, the point the Polish coach made about both Ghosh and Ankita is significant. If they enter the main draw, it will mean a lot to both the paddlers and the Indian table tennis.Everything else will be a big, big bonus.



Indian Sports News Network