Manika Batra: I will give my best in Rio

"The Olympics experience with the presence of such senior players around me will definitely help me in my future endeavours," says Batra.

Manika Batra... confident of a good show.   -  Vivek Bendre

A majority of India’s 100-plus Rio-bound Olympians will not really be in medal contention come next month. Manika Batra will be one of them. But the 21-year-old paddler is not at all considering the quadrennial extravaganza as the pinnacle of her glittering decade-plus journey as a competitive table tennis player.

“I am excited to have qualified for the Olympics at such an early stage in my career,” Batra said on the sidelines of an event organised by Lakshya Sports Foundation, the NGO that supports her, to unveil a new sponsor. “The Olympics experience with the presence of such senior players around me will definitely help me in my future endeavours. I hope it helps me in my two big goals — to break into the World top-50 and win a medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.”

Batra is one of the four Indian paddlers to have booked a ticket to Rio. While A. Sharath Kamal will feature in his third Olympics, Soumyajit Ghosh and Mouma Das will make their second appearance. Batra, thus, will be the lone debutant in India’s four-member table tennis contingent. “The fact that the three seniors have already been to the Olympics will help me a great deal to soak in the atmosphere and give my best. That’s all I am thinking of for now.”

Despite being the youngest of the lot, Batra has already created ripples on the international circuit. In June, when her ranking jumped to 115, it was the highest ever ranking for an Indian female paddler for the last quarter of a century. That she had a 15-place dip in July was primarily due to her weeklong training stint in Tokyo for Olympic preparation earlier this month.

A prodigy of Sandeep Gupta, who had also groomed Neha Aggarwal, who represented in the 2008 Olympics, Batra has already shown enough promise. Her height — the Delhi girl is 5 feet 10 inches tall — isn’t the only distinguishing factor for her when she enters the arena. As much as her backhand winners, one cannot help but notice her fashion-consciousness even while on table. All her accessories, from head band to nail paint, are in sync with the colour of her jersey more often than not when she competes. But that hasn’t deviated her focus from the game.

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