India’s table tennis star G Sathiyan is confident that the paddlers will be able to give their best and make a mark at the Tokyo Olympics, which will be held from July 23 to August 8 in the capital city of Japan.
Sathiyan backed Sharath Kamal’s views on mixed doubles pair having the best chance of winning a medal at the Games and insisted that the singles players will be gunning for podium finishes in Tokyo. Sathiyan pointed out that Indian table tennis is on the rise and there will certainly be an improved showing at the 2024 Olympic Games.
India sealed as many as 4 singles berths for Tokyo Olympics with Sathiyan, Sharath Kamal, Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee at the Asian qualifiers in Doha earlier this month. Sharath and Manika stunned top seeds and World No. 5 pairing of Sang-Su Lee and Jihee in the final to clinch the only mixed doubles berth that was on offer.
Speaking to India Today Sports Consulting Editor Boria Majumdar on Sports Today, Sathiyan said India have a long way to go when it comes to dominating at the Olympics but stressed the paddlers will be able to put up a show in Tokyo.
“220 countries play this sport. We have come a long way and I think it’s still a very long way to go. Mixed doubles, definitely they have a big chance. There are only 16 pairs, you start off with Round of 16. They have a very realistic chance,” Sathiyan said.
“Even in the singles, we have a great chance. I beat (Tomakazu) Harimoto, the World No. 4 (at the Asian championships in 2019). He is a strong contender for an Olympic medal. When you beat the top 10 players, it gives a lot of confidence. We have done well in a lot of tournaments, we won the first medal in Asian Games. We are confident,we are going to put up a strong performance, aiming for a medal.
“I think India will do better in the 2024 version. It’s only going upwards. We are going very close to a medal. If we win a medal this time, it’s going to be amazing. If not, at the 2024 Games, India has a big chance to win its first-ever medal in table tennis.”
How training with a robot helped Sathiyan
Sathiyan, who has competed in Korea and Germany in the wake of the pandemic, said the Covid-19 lockdown was difficult to negotiate. However, the Tamil Nadu paddler revealed his sparring partner at home — a robot from Germany — helped him improve his skills and speed when quite a few of his colleagues were unable to train.
“Covid-19 pandemic was very tough. But times spent with family was a blessing in disguise. We rarely get time for family as sportspersons. But we found different ways to deal with the lockdown. I had an advanced table tennis robot in my house, imported from Germany with support from Tamil Nadu government and the GoSports Foundation.
“I started to train with it for almost 3 months. So my technique and speed improved,” Sathiyan said.