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Sharath Kamal, Manika Batra speed shifter increases the medal hopes of the Tokyo Olympics

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Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra provide an exciting mixed doubles table tennis pair for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. They showed skills and mental toughness to stun Lee Sang-su and Jeon Ji-hee, Korea’s No. 5, in the final of the qualifying tournament in Doha to secure their spot at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

They showed spark at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta where they won bronze.

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The seasoned Sharath says they complement each other because of their individual playing style. The different speeds they like to play can be difficult for their opponents to choose, he says.

Manika slows down the game very well because of her playing style. I can bring it up to the fastest speed. So she puts it on very slow speed and from there I bring it on high speed. That change in speed got opponents into trouble, Sharath says.

The strategy worked against the best Korean pair. Sharath and Manika lost the first two games but fought back to win the game 4-2.

The coach kept telling us, try to get them in meetings. We made a lot of mistakes trying to finish the points early. Once we started playing long rallies, the change in speed we both have made all the difference, he says.

Beating a top couple in a situation of pressure in Doha last month has given Sharath and Manika great confidence ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

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The qualification was very special. That was our only chance to qualify as we could not have qualified through the world rankings. There were two teams ahead of us in the top 16. We were nervous before the games. But we entered the tournament in the right mental and physical form. We didn’t do very well in the first tournament, but we spent a bit more time in the hall to practice some tactical stuff.

Sharath, the world’s number 32 in singles, has also qualified for the individual competition. He will participate in his fourth Olympic Games. He believes that the mixed team competition gives India a realistic chance of winning a medal in table tennis. With a draw of 16, we are only three games from a medal, says the 38-year-old.

Both want to train together, but the Covid situation in the country has resulted in these plans having to be shelved.

We are discussing whether I should go to Pune to train. But the situation is bad in Maharashtra, so we have to wait a while.

In May Sharath wants to go to China for two WTT (World Table Tennis) tournaments and in June there are plans to invite some foreign players to India for training.

It all depends on the Covid situation.

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