Paris Olympics: Sharath Kamal lauds Indian paddlers’ historic team berths

At 42, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist braces for his fifth Games

The Paris Olympics will be Achanta Sharath Kamal’s (extreme left) fifth appearance, but the first time as part of a team event (photo: TTFI/X)
The Paris Olympics will be Achanta Sharath Kamal’s (extreme left) fifth appearance, but the first time as part of a team event (photo: TTFI/X)

NH Sports Bureau

The Paris Olympics will be Achanta Sharath Kamal’s fifth Games appearance, but this is the first time India’s evergreen table tennis hero will get an opportunity to be a part of the team event. On Monday, the India men and women’s team made history when they earned quotas for Olympics based on their International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) rankings.

Now 42, the genial Kamal – who hails from Chennai – is regarded as arguably the country’s best-ever men’s table tennis player for a reason. He has a staggering seven Commonwealth Games medals including gold, two Asian Games medals, four Olympic appearances and two ITTF Pro Tour titles but has always rued that a Olympic medal is missing on his shelves.

‘’Finally!!! India qualifiers for the team event at the Olympics! Something I have wanted for a long long time. This one is truly special, despite it being my fifth appearance at the Olympics. Kudos to our women’s team who also secured a historic quota,’’ Kamal wrote on his X handle after the ITTF confirmed the berths on Monday.

While table tennis players from India are no strangers to the big stage of Olympics, neither men or women could make the team events ever since it was introduced from Beijing 2008. At the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, India sent a four-member contingent comprising of Kamal, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Sutirtha Mukherjee and Batra with them competing in singles and mixed doubles only.

However, they had put up a spirited performance in the World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals 2024 in Busan last month where the women’s team went down fighting 3-2 to China despite Ayhika Mukherjee and Sreeja Akula turning the tables on Sun Yingsha and Wang Didi, the world No.1 and 2, respectively. They missed out on direct Olympic quotas after failing to make the quarter finals, but there was a window of opportunity because of their improved world rankings.

Indian men, 15th in the world team rankings and the women, ranked 13th, secured the quotas based on the latest rankings for March. A total of 16 table tennis teams will compete in each of the men and women’s team events in Paris.

Besides the Indian women, Thailand (11), Poland (12) and Sweden (15) made the cut for Paris 2024 through the rankings pathway. Croatia (12) and Slovenia (11), meanwhile, were the other teams who secured their spots in the men's event.

For the table tennis team events, the competition at the Paris Olympics will start from the round of 16 onwards. India, who registered their best medal in Tokyo with seven medals, are riding high after a 100-plus medal haul in last Asian Games and are looking to breach the double digit mark in Paris.

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