Four paddlers will be representing India at the Tokyo Olympic Games this year in the table tennis competition. While ace paddler Sharath Kamal Achanta will be heading the team, he will be joined by Manika Batra, Sutirtha Mukherjee and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran in Tokyo.
Sharath Kamal Achanta – (Men’s Singles & Mixed Doubles)
Making his fourth Olympic appearance in Tokyo, Achanta has been one of the greats of the game from India.
Between India winning their inaugural gold medal for table tennis at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and then winning their sixth table tennis gold medal a few years back at the 2018 Gold Coast, there was one common link – Sharath Achanta. This itself speaks volumes about the paddler’s talent and longevity in the sport.
Sharath, who in sorts has been the flag-bearer of the sport in India, has inspired a whole generation to follow their passion for the game. After grabbing the headlines at the 2004 Commonwealth Championship in Kuala Lumpur, Sharath went on to gain further success at the 2004 Athens Olympics. His success saw multiple youngsters breakthrough, following in his footsteps, and it was no surprise that at India’s extremely successful 2018 Commonwealth Games campaign, Sharath was joined with the likes of Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Manika Batra, who along with the veteran paved a new era of table tennis in the country.
Sharath, in what would most likely be his final Olympic campaign, would like to go out on a high, ably supported by the ones he has inspired.
Sathiyan Gnanasekaran – (Men’s Singles)
When Sathiyan became the first Indian player to break into the world’s top 25 rankings, his talent, which was already known, was now cemented at the international level.
Sathiyan took the world by storm when he won his debut ITTF pro tournament, the ITTF Challenge Belgium Open, in 2016. In doing so, the paddler from Chennai became the first Indian to win an ITTF event in Europe. The following year, he continued his strong run of form by winning the ITTF Challenge Spanish Open. Sathiyan was also a part of the bronze medal winning team at the 2018 Asian Games.
Sathiyan heads into the Olympics coming off a silver-medal-winning campaign at an ITTF Major – the Hungarian Open – and would look to create more records in Tokyo this summer.
Manika Batra (Women’s Singles & Mixed Doubles)
An Olympian, a Commonwealth gold medallist, and a South Asian Games gold medallist amongst other honours, Manika Batra is one of the brightest stars of Indian table tennis.
Following in the footsteps of her elder siblings, Batra was introduced to the game at a young age. 2016 was Batra’s breakout year as the ace paddler from Delhi made her Olympic debut at the Rio Olympics and had a triple-gold-medal-winning campaign at the South Asian Games the same year. Batra, along with Mouma Das, became the first Indian table tennis pair to enter the quarterfinals of the World Table Tennis Championship. 2018 was further success for the now 26-year-old, as she became the first Indian woman table tennis player to win an individual gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. She added another gold along with her individual gold as she won the women’s team gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games with Mouma Das, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Madhurika Patkar and Pooja Sahasrabudhe.
Batra heads into the Tokyo Olympics with a sense of optimism, hoping she can build on her medals tally to bag her first Olympic medal.
Sutirtha Mukherjee – (Women’s Singles)
The 25-year-old from Naihati had a promising start to her table tennis career, before being handed a multi-year ban in 2015 for age-fraud. Mukherjee has come a long way since then, and has risen to the top of Indian table tennis, on the verge of representing her country at the Olympics this summer for the first time.
Having won the title at the 2017 National Table Tennis Championship, Mukherjee was a member of the historic Indian women’s team that won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The Naihati girl’s rise from the ashes has been nothing but spectacular, as she has jumped from rank 502 to rank 95 within a year!
Heading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Sutirtha will be riding high on confidence having beaten India’s top ranked woman’s player, Manika Batra, to earn her place on the flight to Tokyo. Coming from a small town with humble beginnings, Mukerjee’s shot at gold in the women’s singles is a inspirational story for all.