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Indian table tennis teams script history, qualify for Paris Olympics


Great feeling: The Indian players are delighted to be playing in the quadrennial event as a team.
| Photo Credit: Getty Images

For the first time in the history of Indian table tennis, the National men’s and women’s teams qualified for the Olympics through the World team rankings, the final list of which was released on Monday. The Indian men’s team is ranked 15 while the women are 13.

“It is a very big achievement. It’s been a long process. A big thanks to the Executive Committee of Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), coaches and players who have made it happen,” TTFI secretary Kamlesh Mehta told The Hindu.

It will be a four-member team wherein the fourth player will be a substitute. However, it might be a tough call for TTFI to make because in the ‘Race to Paris’ rankings in singles, all the four players are fighting for a place in singles as well as in the team. Sharath is at the top at 53 followed by Manav Thakkar (57), Harmeet Desai (57) and G. Sathiyan (62).

As for the two spots in singles in men and women being available as a result of the team making it to Paris, the TTFI Secretary, said, “we will decide on it (who will play singles) as we have time till June 18 to give the names [to ITTF].”

Manika Batra.

Manika Batra.
| Photo Credit:
REUTERS

Planning ahead

Harmeet urged TTFI to release the team list by the month of May so that players get enough time to prepare. “It’s great India has qualified. I hope TTFI comes up with the final list of who will make up the team, and who plays doubles (a tie in Olympics consists of four singles and one doubles) by May so that we get enough time to prepare,” he said.

G. Sathiyan said, “It is a historic achievement. It’s a double bonanza that women have made the cut. Our first goal was to qualify and we have been working for a long time to improve our world rankings.

“My focus will be on making the cut for Olympics in mixed doubles with Manika Batra.”

One last shot

Sharath Kamal, a veteran of four Olympics, said it is a great feeling of playing in the quadrennial event as a team.

“It is going to my last Olympics. If we can make the quarters, it will be huge.” Sharath said he will play in quite a few WTT tournaments to see how his singles form is. “I will play in the Singapore Smash and Saudi Smash tournaments,” he said.

Manika Batra and Sreeja Akula have been assured of a spot in the Indian women’s team due to their World rankings.

The third spot in the team will most probably be a toss-up between Ayhika Mukherjee, who stunned women’s World No.1 Sun Yingsha of China in the World teams in Busan, and Archana Kamath.



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