Gondomar (Portugal): The Indian men’s table tennis squad are well placed to create history at the Olympic qualifiers beginning here Wednesday. The Indians, seeded fifth just need a quarterfinal finish to ensure their maiden qualification as a team at the Tokyo Games.
Unless the team comprising G Sathiyan (world rank 30), veteran Sharath Kamal (WR 33) and Harmeet Desai (WR 86) play badly, India should not have a lot of difficulty in making the Olympic cut. The other members of the team are Anthony Amalraj and fast rising Manav Thakkar.
In the past games, Indian players have played only in individual events but now three of them being in top-100 shows the rapid strides India have taken at the highest level.
The men, who have been given a first round bye in the draw of 64, take on Luxembourg in their opener. Sharath and Co effectively need to win two matches to qualify. Their round of 16 opponents will be 11th seed Slovenia or 20th seed Iran.
The women’s unit, led by Manika Batra, has a much tougher task at hand as they run into a much stronger Sweden in the opener.
Ahead of the tournament, the entire contingent had a camp in Chennai before it travelled to Germany to train with its national team.
Despite the lack of a head coach since the 2019 Asian Games, Indian paddlers have been producing impressive performances on the professional circuit.
The men’s team had ended a 60-year wait by winning a historic bronze at the Asian Games in Jakarta. The contingent’s campaign got even better as Sharath and Manika, who won four medals at the preceding Commonwealth Games, bagged a surprise bronze in the mixed doubles.
Korea are the top seed in men’s category, followed by Chinese Taipei, Sweden, France and India.
Hong Kong are the top seed in women’s event, ahead of Chinese Taipei, Singapore, Korea and Romania.