An overnight star

Manika Batra was named the Sportswoman of the Year (Racquet Sport) at the Sportstar Aces Awards supported by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, in association with MRF.

Manika Batra became the first Indian to break into the top-50 of the women’s world rankings.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Manika Batra could have easily lost out on the award to P. V. Sindhu, but the jury rightly chose the two ladies to share the honour for the best in racquet sport at the Sportstar Aces Awards supported by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, in association with MRF.

“It is indeed a great honour. Wish I could have received the award in person. It feels great when your performances are acknowledged. I feel the pressure of expectations rising, but I am happy. I will do my best to live up to the expectations,” said the soft-spoken Manika, who has let her performances do the talking for the past year.

Indeed, Manika’s showing at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast made her a star overnight. Coming back with gold medals in singles and the women’s team event, silver in women’s doubles and bronze in mixed doubles, Manika truly caught the imagination of a country that did not expect much from its ladies in table tennis.

Though the World Team Championships provided nothing memorable for Manika, the series of reverses proved instrumental in her display at the Asian Games. She partnered Sharath Kamal and brought home the country’s first-ever table tennis medal, a bronze, in mixed doubles.

This young Olympian owes much to her coach Sandeep Gupta. This Delhi-based former player has trained several talented names, including Neha Agarwal, another Olympian.

Manika also became the first Indian to break into the top 50 of the women’s world rankings, presently perched at 47th. The gulf between Manika and the rest in the country can be gauged by the fact that the next best girl, Ayhika Mukherjee, is ranked a distant 114!

For her dramatic rise, the International Table Tennis Federation presented her the Breakthrough Star Award after the nation bestowed the Arjuna Award.