Twelve years after he won his first two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, A Sharath Kamal returns to the country that must hold a special place in his heart. The 35-year-old is part of India’s table tennis squad for the 2018 Games at Gold Coast in Australia, the same country where in 2006 he had won the individual and team golds in Melbourne.
The 2018 Games are likely to be the last CWG appearance for the 35-year-old, who believe he can add two more golds to his cabinet which already includes three golds from the quadrennial competition.
Sharath, ranked 71st in the world, feels India has a good chance to win medals in all four categories (singles, team, doubles and mixed doubles) considering the strength of the squad. India has six players in the top-100 of table tennis world men’s rankings.
“It is easily the strongest men’s squad we have fielded at the Commonwealth Games,” Sharath told PTI in an interview. “The ranking system has changed completely and the more you play, the better it is. That is one of the reasons why six of us are in the top-100. Having said that, the boys are doing really well and we really have a strong squad.”
The Indian squad is definitely hoping for a better medal haul than Glasgow 2014, where India won just one silver medal – their worst show in terms of medal count. “CWG is the only major multi-sporting event where we are expected to win medals,” Sharath said. “So considering that, the Glasgow performance was a huge disappointment. Because of that there is going to be extra pressure in Gold Coast but we are ready.”
The Indian squad is preparing in Europe at the moment and will be back in India on Sunday. Sharath said his preparations for CWG have been going well since September, with his record eight national title giving him a boost. “I was happy to win the Nationals, it gave me the momentum I needed,” he said. “Things I have been working on, both physically and mentally, have come along finally.”
Sharath said his forehand has always been his biggest asset but now a consistent backhand has boosted his game. “It is the main reason I was able to beat [world No 7] Koki Niwa [at the Qatar Open earlier this month]. He did not see it coming.”
Apart from Sharath, the other Indians in the CWG squad in men’s singles are the 58th-ranked Soumyajit Ghosh and the 49th-ranked G Sathiyan.
With inputs from PTI