A successful second stint

Massimo Costantini was named Coach of the Year at the Sportstar Aces Awards supported by Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, in association with MRF.

Costantini played a role in helping A. Sharath Kamal’s resurgence.   -  K. Ananthan

When Massimo Costantini returned as the India head coach for his second stint late in 2016, he was expected to repeat the success of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, when the country’s paddlers finished with five medals, including one gold. By the time he finished his tenure in September 2018 and joined the International Table Tennis Federation as a high-performance manager, he had not only matched those expectations but even bettered them, with 2018 turning out to be a watershed year for Indian table tennis.

The Commonwealth Games in March saw the Indian contingent returning with eight medals, including a whopping four gold. In the next month, the men’s team finished the World Table Tennis Championships as the joint 13th team in the world while the women rose to a joint 17th position.

Then came the Asian Games, and India continued to make history, with Costantini’s protégés helping India win its first medal at the continental extravaganza. As much as Costantini played a role in helping A. Sharath Kamal’s resurgence, the Italian was pivotal in grooming youngsters that he had identified in his first stint in 2009-10.

It was Costantinti who had convinced the administrators to let the promising juniors train with the then-seniors in the build-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. And the fact that almost all the members of the junior lot are flying high on the international scene as of now is a testimony to Costantini, referred to as Max in the table tennis fraternity.

“When I left India in 2010, I always had a sense of unfinished business. So when I got another opportunity, I knew we had to make the most of it,” said Costantini. “I am glad that all the stakeholders worked towards the same goal and the results are evident for everyone.”

His pivotal role in India’s table tennis revolution had not been recognised with any formal award until the jury zeroed in on him as the Coach of the Year at the Sportstar Aces Awards supported by Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, in association with MRF. “I am thrilled because it’s my first award in India and thank The Hindu Group for acknowledging my small, little contribution,” he said.