Kamlesh Mehta backs paddlers to shine in Olympic qualifiers

The Indian table tennis contingent will start its World Team Qualification event from January 22 in Portugal.

Former TT champion Kamlesh Mehta called the recent performances of the paddlers 'morale boosting'.   -  FILE PHOTO/ SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

 

Eight-time national table tennis champion Kamlesh Mehta is hopeful that the Indian contingent will turn heads at the World Team Qualification event — for Tokyo Olympics 2020 — starting January 22 in Gondomar, Portugal.

“We are proud of the performances of the Indian table tennis team. They have been excellent. Now they will be going for the Olympic qualification and what they have achieved so far is superb,” said Mehta, on the sidelines of the Sportstar Aces Awards 2020 in Mumbai.

Ranked eighth at present, India needs to reach the quarterfinals of the qualifying event to ensure a maiden Olympic qualification as a team. Till date, the paddlers have only featured in individual events at the showpiece event.

The paddlers, as a team, have done all things right in the last two years.

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The medal haul at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) and the Asian Games in 2018 acted as a shot in the arm for the sports fraternity. Manika Batra became the darling of the nation by clinching as many as four medals, including two gold, at the CWG in Gold Coast, Australia.

The men’s team — comprising Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Achanta Sharath Kamal and Anthony Amalraj — clinched its maiden bronze at the Asian Games.

“Their performance has been morale boosting and I hope they continue doing well. We are happy to be part of it, but we are a small part of it. The majority of the work has been done by the players, coaches, the federations and the government. Everyone had a role,” added Mehta, who was the captain of the Indian team from 1982 to 1989. He was the highest-ranked Indian player in Asia and the Commonwealth.

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“2019 has been a good year for sports. There have been good performances from other sports, not only one or two, many new faces are doing well. Right now, we are looking forward to the Olympics,” he added.

Mehta also thanked Sportstar for its table tennis coverage over the years. “Sportstar was one of the magazines we looked up to. It was covering each and every region, it was not limited to one particular sport. It was a dream to be on the cover of the magazine. That time, only cricketers would be given these things (awards), due to their popularity but this magazine was doing justice to all of us in all sports.”