Sharath-Manika pair can be India’s surprise package in Tokyo, feels Olympian RadhikaJuly 21, 2021
The four-member Indian paddlers – Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan, Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee – for the Olympic Games are a mix of experience and consistency.
Tokyo will be the record fourth Olympic appearance for the record nine-time national table tennis champion Sharath following his representations in 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing and 2016 Rio Games.
Sharath, 39, is from Chennai but based in Germany, playing European leagues. He has at least 10 medals including four gold medals from Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. In the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, he and Manika Batra paired up to win the bronze medal in mixed doubles for the first time, bringing hope that Indians can make it to the top in a sport that is dominated by China, Japan and South Korea.
Post their performance, Sharath was honoured with Padma Shri, the country’s highest civilian award and Manika was bestowed with Khel Ratna.
“I have seen them (Sharath and G Sathiyan) playing in the Japan Open and Asia Cup in Hong Kong a couple of years back. I have no doubts about their show. In Tokyo too, I’m sure they will make India proud,” said Olympian Radhika Suresh who was a national coach then. “The mixed doubles duo of Sharath and Manika can be a surprise package,” she told indianexpress.com.
The Covid-19 pandemic might have robbed them of some valuable match practice but Radhika insisted that it’s all the same for all. “I’m sure they have trained hard. I know Sharath, Sathiyan and Manika too. They all train very, very hard. I have not seen Sutirtha much but whatever I have seen, she is good,” said Radhika who represented India at Centennial Olympics in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
For Sathiyan, the highest-ranked Indian player in the World at No. 32, Tokyo Games will be his first Olympics. At one point, the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games gold medallist was World No.24.
Sathiyan lifted the 2016 Belgium Open and 2017 Spanish Open and three medals at Gold Coast Commonwealth Games helped him win Arjuna Award, the country’s highest sporting honour in 2018. Sathiyan, 26, will be eager to make a lasting impression. “In singles, Sathiyan will do well,” said Radhika, the former national champion who also played in World, Commonwealth and Asian championships in the 1990s.
Delhi girl Manika, 25, and ranked 63 in the World won the gold medal in 2018 Gold Coast CWG is upbeat while Sutirtha, 25, from Kolkata had booked a Tokyo spot with a 4-2 win over Manika in the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Doha last March.
The Olympic draw will be released on Wednesday.