Sessions with psychologist help me to handle expectations, says CWG gold medallist Achanta Sharath Kamal

Paddler Sharath Kamal took his overall CWG medals tally to a record 13 in Birmingham Games.

India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta in action during his match against England’s Liam Pitchford in Birmingham at the Commonwealth Games 2022.

India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta in action during his match against England’s Liam Pitchford in Birmingham at the Commonwealth Games 2022. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Paddler Sharath Kamal took his overall CWG medals tally to a record 13 in Birmingham Games.

At 40 years of age, to win four medals inclusive of three gold and one silver is not an everyday occurrence in sports. Sharath Kamal, India’s evergreen paddler, made it happen at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, with an astounding performance that took his overall CWG medals tally to a record 13.

The scheduling of the Games, according to Sharath, was difficult, having had to play six matches on the second day and three matches in one session on the third day.

“This is the most number of matches I’ve played in the Commonwealth Games. It was very tiring mentally and physically,” Sharath told Sportstar on Wednesday over a phone call from New Delhi.

What held him in good stead was his meticulous preparations much ahead of the Games. “I knew these things would happen. During my training sessions in Chennai, I would do running, training and gym and then later do gym, swimming and practice. I was prepared,” he said.

The appointment at the last minute of psychologist Gayatri Vartak of Sports Authority of India to Birmingham couldn't have come at a more appropriate time, Sharath felt.

“Given my personality, the sessions with Gayatri, helped me to handle the expectations. “What I should think during the matches, how I should control my breathing and thought patterns. It all played a part in me doing well,” he said.

Sharath praised the Committee of Administrators (COA) for including Gayatri at the last minute. “COA member and manager of the team Mr. S. D. Mudil gave his place for Gayatri, which is worth appreciating,” he said.

On his rather one-sided victory over second seeded Liam Pitchford of England in the singles final, Sharath said it was his ability to serve and receive extremely well that enabled him to defeat the Brit.

“Pitchford is a deceptive player, who plays really fast. The way he played against Sathiyan in the singles semifinals. I thought it would be a tough final. But my serves and receives were fantastic. Moreover, I was able to change the tempo of the rallies, which was crucial,” he said.

Sharath said his match against Aruna Quadri of Nigeria in the men’s team semifinals gave him the confidence to perform well in singles events. “Playing against Quadri was like seeing an Avengers film: exciting with fast paced and long rallies. We were playing huge forehand top-spins. Whoever attacks better gets the point. It was the Quadri’s match and the singles semifinals against Paul Drinkhall of England that pushed me to perform my best,” said the four-time Olympian.

Sharath confessed that winning a mixed doubles medal with Sreeja Akula looked a distant possibility before the Games, but the 24-year-old reigning National women’s champion surprised him with the way she played in the summit clash.

“Initially Sreeja was scared of playing with me. But she got into the groove as the rounds progressed. In fact in the final, Sreeja was a one-lady army. I just served and she finished the point. I didn’t expect her to play so well. Also, she was very unlucky not to win a medal in the women’s singles,” he said.

Sharath revealed that he was stronger physically and mentally than how he was at the 2018 CWG. “I was moving faster, had more energy [in Birmingham]. All because of my focussed fitness regimen that I underwent during the COVID-19 pandemic. I wanted to be in my best shape and peak at the right time, which I did,” he said.

All the success couldn’t have come to a nicer man.

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