Express News Service
CHENNAI: AGE is just a song for Achanta Sharath Kamal. Coming July, the World Champion will be No. 32 paddler 39, but that didn’t stop him from looking at his 10th national men’s title. Sharath started his campaign on Sunday with an easy 4-0 win over Abinay Vijay Babu in the 64th round. In an exclusive interview with TNIE, Sharath said the national team is very important to the players as this will be their first game in almost a year. . He also said that winning a medal in the Olympics this season is his goal.
Question: How important are citizens especially after lockdown?
A. The Nationals have always been a very important tournament, and this year, especially after the lockdown, it will be the first tournament. Post the nationals, we have the Olympic qualifiers in Qatar and the national championships will be a good testing ground for all the players who will go for the Olympic qualifiers. And a special mention to TTFI for coming forward and hosting the national championships giving us much needed match training ahead of these very important tournaments.
Q: How badly do the players want to participate?
A: It has been over 11 months since we played in a major league. The last major tournament for women opened in March 2020. None of us have played in a league, so all players are eager to get back into the routine by taking part in the national matches.
Q: How are your preparations for the nationals?
A. My preparation for the national championships was not very specific as I focus more on the international events after this tournament and of course the Olympic qualifiers. So as part of the regime, the national championships will help me find my mental shape and sharpness needed to have a head start in the Olympic qualifiers.
Question: Will the camp you had at your academy help remove the rust? Have you had competition training?
A: Since January I had invited a few players to practice with me in Chennai. During these training sessions we were more focused on competition training. So now after six weeks of intensive preparation, including strategy building, skill sharpening, video analysis and mental conditioning, I am now ready for the competitions.
Question: How do you like the younger generation in the country?
A: The younger generation is very talented. These young people are doing extremely well both inland and on the international circuit. Manav Thakkar, Snehit and Manush are players to watch out for, apart from G Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai. This subject will be one of the toughest in terms of competition.
Question: How do you reinvent and motivate yourself?
A: It is very important for any athlete to stay motivated as I have had many awards for our country over the years, but I am still trying to get better and keep improving myself. Post the 2018 Asian Games where we medalized for the first time in 60 years, my goal is to win an Olympic medal that keeps me motivated.
Question: How do you deal with fitness at this age?
A: Ramji Srinivasan at Sports Dynamix makes plans to keep me fit all year round and always get the best out of me. My good physical condition is the main reason why I can still keep up with the competition at an international level. I spend more time on my physical fitness sessions than on my table tennis workout.
Question: Tournaments you play for the Olympics?
A: As of now, Qatar will host two tournaments in the world rankings of 1-6 and 8-13 in March. None of the other tournaments have been confirmed. The world Olympic qualifiers will also be held in Doha from March 14-17. The Asian Olympic qualifiers will be held March 18-20 in Doha.
Question: Have you made a plan for the road to the Olympics?
A: Yes, planning is the most important aspect as there are five major tournaments in a row. I have discussed technical and tactical aspects with my coaches, Srinivasa Rao and Muralidhara Rao, and have been working on them since January. I also get help from Ramji Srinivasan to keep myself fit for all five tournaments, which is generally very difficult as I have never played five tournaments in a row. I spoke with my nutritionist to have a clear diet plan that will be of great help during these competitions
Q: Sathiyan and Amalraj are from TN. How does TN manage to produce quality players?
A: Tamil Nadu has a long tradition and culture of producing champions in table tennis. Starting from Thiruvengadum, G Jaganath, V Chandrasekhar and many more, the state has produced the cream of the crop of Indian table tennis. As a child it is very easy to watch and learn about these top players. They have also set a very high standard for the younger generation to achieve. And currently we have very good support from SDAT in the field of infrastructure. In addition, we have a great sports policy that benefits many athletes.
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