Indian athletes have qualified in 18 sports for the Tokyo Olympics. While India will be targeting to win medals in some disciplines, there are still a few sports where India doesn’t have a realistic chance of making a podium finish. Albeit, the athletes can surely aim for the best performance by an Indian in the particular sport at the Olympics. Two such sports are Swimming and Table Tennis.
In both these sports, India has shown slow but steady progress and the athletes will be looking to replicate that at Olympics, which can set the bar high for the generations to come.
Here we take a peek at the athletes who will be representing India in the two sports at Tokyo Olympics 2020:
Sajan Prakash: 27-year-old Sajan Prakash hails from Kerala. He is the first-ever Indian swimmer to breach the FINA “A” Olympic qualification time. Sajan clocked 1:56.38 in the men’s 200m butterfly event at the 2021 Sette Colli Trophy in Rome to book his berth for Tokyo. Sajan will be featuring in his second Olympics. He previously participated at the Tokyo Olympics where he finished at 28th position in the men’s 200m butterfly event at the Rio Olympics. Sajan also represented India at Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in 2018 where he reached the final but failed to secure any medal.
Srihari Nataraj: 20-year-old from Bengaluru, Karnataka is the one for the future. He clocked 53.77 in the men’s 100m backstroke time trial at the Sette Colli Trophy in Rome to become the second Indian swimmer to breach the FINA “A” Olympic qualification time.
At the age of 17, Srihari represented India at Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in 2018. He has had some remarkable performance at the junior level. The Bengaluru lad made it to the final of the 100m backstroke event at the 2018 Youth Olympics where he finished 6th. He also qualified for the final of 50m backstroke and 100m backstroke at the FINA World Junior Championships in 2019, finishing at 6th and 7th position respectively.
Maana Patel: 21-year-old Maana Patel is from Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Maana Patel will be the sole female representative for India in swimming at the Tokyo Olympics. She qualified through Universality Quota.
Maana held a national record in backstroke events when she was just 15. But injuries halted her career. However, she has made a successful return to the pool this year. She clocked 1:04.77 in 100m backstroke to win gold at Uzbekistan Open Swimming Championships in April. She bettered her national mark with a timing of 1:03.77 in the 100m backstroke in Belgrade.
Expectations: All three Indian swimmers should aim to better their national records. Srihari Nataraj has a realistic chance of making it to the semi-final if he makes a slight improvement in his personal best timing.
Achanta Sharath Kamal: 39-year-old Sharath Kamal has been the torchbearer of Indian table tennis for the last 15 years. The veteran from Chennai will be participating in his 3rd Olympic Games. Sharath won the individual gold medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, he also helped India’s men’s team clinch gold. At the 2010s Delhi Commonwealth Games, he won the men’s doubles gold medal with Subhajit Saha. In individuals, he had to be satisfied with bronze. The year 2018 was the most memorable year for the Indian paddler as he bagged 4 medals at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games including a men’s team gold and mixed doubles silver. His career’s biggest moment came at Jakarta Asian Games where he led India’s men to a historic bronze by defeating a higher-ranked Japanese side. It was India’s first-ever medal at the Asian Games. Then he partnered with Manika Batra to win bronze in mixed doubles events where the Indian duo stunned higher-ranked Korean pair in the quarterfinals. Sharath has won a record of 9 national titles.
Sathiyan Gnanasekaran: Sathiyan’s entry into Indian table tennis has brought new hopes for the sport in the country. 28-year-old Chennai born Sathiyan will be making his Olympic debut in Tokyo. He is India’s first paddler to break into the top-25 ITTF ranking when he claimed his career-high 24th rank in May 2019. Sathiyan won his first ITTF World Tour title in 2016 when he won the Belgium ITTF Challenge tournament. It was the first time that an Indian player won a title on European Soil. In 2017 Sathiyan became the first Indian to win two ITTF pro titles by winning Gold at the Spanish Open. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, he won 3 medals including a men’s team gold. He put up a stellar performance at the Jakarta Asian Games where he played a pivotal role in Indian men’s bronze-medal winning effort. At the 2019 Asian Championship, he became the first Indian to enter the quarterfinals in the men’s singles category after a gap of 43 years.
Manika Batra: Manika’s performance at the Commonwealth Games 2018 brought her and Indian table tennis to the media’s attention. She clinched medals in all four categories including golds in singled and women’s team events. She stunned the reigning World no.4 Feng Tianwei of Singapore in the semi-final on her way to the gold. Later that year, Delhi-born Manika became the first-ever Indian female paddler to win a medal at the Asian Games. The mixed doubled pair of Manika-Sharath won bronze in mixed doubles events at the Jakarta Asian Games. She became the first Indian to receive ‘The Breakthrough Star Award’ by ITTF in 2018. Tokyo Olympics would be her second appearance in the mega event and she would be looking to improve her performance from Rio where she lost in the first round.
Sutirtha Mukherjee: 26-year-old Bengal born Sutirtha will be making her debut at the Olympics. She defeated Manika Batra in the Asia Qualification Event in March to book a ticket for Tokyo. She was also part of the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning women’s team.
Expectations: Mixed doubles duo of Sharath & Manika bagged bronze at Asian Games. If the draw favours them then there’s a slight possibility for a medal. In singles competitions, reaching pre-quarterfinal will be an accomplishment for the Indian paddlers.