The lion may be in his winter but has enough fire in his belly to go for glory one last time. Yes, Sharath Kamal, at 40 and in his fifth CommonwealthGames, is hoping to stand on the podium for his10th medal.
He has won four gold medals since the 2006 MelbourneGames — including an individual gold in Melbourne 2006— and remains India’s undisputed king when it comes to commonwealth Games table tennis.
“I do not know if it will be my last. But for the past two years I am taking every tournament as my final one. Yes, sixth (CWG) is four years away but who knows,” he told The Telegraph on Thursday morning from Birmingham.
“The secret behind Sharath’severlasting presence is his discipline and dedication. Success still excites him and he knows how to take care of his body. After you reach 34-35 years of age, you do not do long-term planning. You take one year at a time. Sharathdid just that. And also, with age his experience grew,” his one-time teammate and coachSoumyadip Roy said.
When the Tokyo Olympic games were postponed by a year in March 2020, the question was if Sharath, then a few months shy of 38, would have enough motivation to continue. Not only did he participate, Sharath managed to snatch a game from eventual gold medal winner Chinese paddler Ma Long in a Round III match.“And now here I am speaking about my chances in Birmingham,” he said.
According to the multiple-time national title winner, the present India squad is one of the best table tennis contingentsIndia has had in the recent past. “In terms of quality and experience, I think this is our best in the last few years.”
India’s stock in table tennis has risen in the last four years with medals in CommonwealthGames and Asian games. Yes in 2006 Sharathhad an individual gold and in the team event India did come first but when it comes to consistency, the last four years have been good. In the Gold Coast edition, India won eight medals including three gold.
“The year 2018 was amazing for us. We excelled against tough oppositions. This year expectations are high and competition will be tough but I am hopeful we will do well,” he said.
England and Nigeria are expected to run India close. While the Africannationboasts of world No. 15 Aruna Quadri. England have Liam Pitchford and PaulDrinkhall in their ranks.
Sharath in Birmingham will be participating in four events — the men’s team, singles, doubles and mixed doubles. And his campaign begins with India taking on Barbadosin the preliminary match of the team event on Friday.
⚫ Day I, live on SONY SIX, TEN 3 and TEN 4 from 1pm