India’s leading table tennis player Manika Batra on Friday said she does not want to burden herself ahead of the next year’s Tokyo Games and is instead targeting a singles medal at the 2024 Olympics.
The 24-year-old paddler made history last year by winning as many as four medals at the Commonwealth Games including a famous singles gold.
At the Asian Games, Manika and veteran Sharath Kamal did the unthinkable by clinching a mixed doubles bronze, ending India’s 60-year-long wait for a medal in the sport.
“All the paddlers are working hard for the Olympics and if we play our best and are lucky, we will win a medal. But I don’t want to put pressure on myself for 2020, I am aiming for a singles medal in 2024 Games,” Manika said on the sidelines of Ultimate Table Tennis, that started on Thursday.
Manika, who recently parted ways with her childhood coach Sandeep Gupta to train with Sanmay Paranjape, said she is happy with the progress in her game after moving her base to Pune.
“I changed the coach because I needed something new in my game. I have improved a lot. My forehand has improved. I have beaten Chinese and Korean players, so I am quite happy with my training in Pune.”
The Commonwealth Games gold medallist, who feels opponents are now able to read her game, said she has been working on introducing variations in her style of play.
“I am working on changing my game because internationally players are taking note, they are studying my game.
“Everyone used to play on my forehand because they knew that wasn’t strong so I have worked on that. I have worked on it a lot now. I turn and switch and finish from the forehand. I have also been working on my rallies,” she explained.
With the Olympics less than a year to go, India’s best shot at winning a medal in table tennis comes from the Asian games bronze medallist mixed doubles pair of Manika and Sharath.
Talking about the preparation, Manika said the duo is keen to win an Olympic medal as both the players have the potential to succeed.
“We are keen to get an Olympic medal in this event and we have also got a bronze in Asian Games. So I think if we practice more we will be in contention for a medal. Sharath and I have a good understanding which is very important in mixed doubles.
“Practice is important, so we have decided we will train for mixed doubles before the Asian Championship and also before Grand Finals. We may go to Europe and train together,” she added.
On Tuesday, new national coach Dejan Papic accepted the one-year contract offered by the Sports Authority of India to coach the Indian table tennis team.
Since the Asian Games last year, the Indian paddlers have been without the services of a coach but the world No 56 feels the appointment of Papic will help in doubles and team events but it will be a difficult road ahead.
“Individually it’s easy like Sharath, Sathiyan, everyone go outside to train. But for mixed doubles we need the coach and are already scheduled to have a camp.
“Massimo (Constantini) knew the game of all the Indian players. Now when the new coach comes, it will be very difficult for him and for us. It will take time for him to settle down. We need the coach for team matches,” Manika said.