Indian table tennis veteran Sharath Kamal said he was disappointed with defeat but proud of the way he played against reigning champion Ma Long at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday, and that the match was one of the best of his career.
The 39-year-old took a game off the legendary Ma Long, the reigning Olympic and world champion, before making a third round exit from the table tennis competition at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday. The draw, as it had been known before, was not kind to the Indian star.
Sharath, however, fought tooth and nail to take the second game from Long and push him to the hilt in the third but eventually lost 7-11, 11-8, 11-13, 4-11, 4-11 in 46 minutes.
“If you look at the way I played – my body language and the way I was fighting for every point and putting Ma Long under pressure – I am very happy that I put him in uncomfortable positions,” Sharath said in a video interaction on Instagram to thank his fans and well-wishers.
“I was feeling very low after the match that I let a good opportunity go, but my coach told me I played very well. I had chances and started very well. I put myself on a 50-50 stage going into the match, told myself that Ma Long will have to earn every point. And that’s exactly what I did. I think this was one of the best matches of my career.
“I felt really bad that I had him in the place I wanted to have him but couldn’t convert. Don’t know if I’ll get another opportunity like this. But I have received a lot of messages of support and I’d like to thank everyone,” he added.
Sharath also said he is determined to make it to the 2024 Olympics even if the immediate goal is the Commonwealth Games and Asiad coming up next year. He added that he is confident the Indian players can finally win a medal at the Paris Games.
“I’m looking at the Commonwealth and Asian Games coming up next year. Hope I’ll be able to contribute for my country and build on it for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The best is yet to come, for me and Indian table tennis. We have done well in these Olympics and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get a medal the next time,” he said.
“I think this team still needs me and I will be there to probably get the maiden Olympic medal in table tennis at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Hopefully we’ll qualify in the team competition with Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai, Manav Thakkar and a few youngsters playing very very well. I hope we can get a medal in Paris, which has been my dream since 2004.”
The experience paddler, currently India No 1 and now a four-time Olympian, also had words of praise for the Indian table tennis contingent for putting up a good show despite their campaigns coming to an end. Personally, he said is proud to have lived up to his pre-Olympics hopes of having his best Games yet.
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