Through pain, Sharath gains Olympic berth

Sharath suffered a serious hamstring injury during this World championship match on April 29 last year and since then, has spent considerable amount of time in rehabilitation and training. During the Asian Olympic qualification, he sprained his back but fought on to clinch the Rio berth.

Achanta Sharath Kamal overcame back sprain to qualify for the Rio Olympics   -  Getty Images

Sharath Kamal’s qualification for the Rio Olympics is the culmination of a battle with injury and self-doubt spread over a year.

To be precise, 50 weeks ago, Sharath suffered a serious hamstring injury during this World championship match on April 29 and since then, he has spent close to a year in rehabilitation and training. He returned to competition only in December and since then, set his sights on Olympic qualification but much depended on his body responding to the load.

Road to recovery

Finally, a day after making the ‘cut’ at Hong Kong, Sharath took time off to share with Sportstar, his painful journey of the past year. “I got injured on the 29th April 2015 during my second round (World Championship) match. My hamstring gave away from the hip bone and it had to be stitched back. Post operation, I was on a walking support and on a wheel-chair for six weeks. Normally it was only two months of rehab but it got extended by another month.

“I finally started playing by October but was able to actively compete only by December. Thanks to my German club, Borussia Dusseldorf, everything was taken care by them from the operation to the rehab and I was in very safe hands,” Sharath revealed.

“So when I started with the rehab, the main aim was to be totally fit for the Olympic Games keeping in mind my world ranking to help me qualify. For that, I had to play my best in the World championship in Malaysia in February. I did extremely well and India won gold in the second division. My ranking slowly bounced back to 61. Normally, being in the Top 80 is a safe bet to qualify for the Games.”

Asian Olympic qualification

Looking back at last week’s Asian Olympic qualification in Hong Kong, Sharath said, “When playing against (Anthony) Amalraj, I was ahead 3-1 and later in the fifth set, I was up 10-8 when I sprained my back playing a long rally. My back got so stiff that I could not bend to serve. I lost the match from there.

“Carrying that injury, I won the next match and extended Soumyajit Ghosh to seven sets. That night, for me, the tournament was over as I could not even walk.

“But next morning, all the top players pulled out as they would qualify on the strength of their World ranking. Their decision made my position a bit shaky. So I decided to play. Though I was injured, I saw a very good chance to qualify from Asia,” he said.

"I played Saudi Arabia’s Ali Alkhadrawi and he extended me to the narrowest of margins before I won 11-9 in the final set. That victory gave me some confidence. Next day, against Iran’s Noshad Alamiyan, I started well but was down 1-3. At that time, I thought, ‘God… if I don’t win this one, I need to play another match this evening to qualify.’ I told myself to play more aggressively and it paid off.”

Sharath won 12-14, 11-6, 3-11, 7-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-6 and booked a berth to Rio.