Former eight-time national singles table tennis champion Kamlesh Mehta agreed that more was expected from the Indian table tennis contingent at the recently concluded Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“Yes, the players themselves know it was a disappointing show. We expected at least two of them (four in all) to enter the second round, but it did not happen,” Mehta said of the performances of Achanta Sharath Kamal, Soumyajit Ghosh, Mouma Das and Manika Batra.
“But it cannot be said they should not have taken part (and avoid the humiliation),” he said when asked about comments that Olympic athletes should not participate if there are little expectations of a medal.
Mehta is the director of 11Even Sports, a company he started especially for promotion and development of table tennis in the country. The former table tennis national team coach announced the start of an inter-school national tournament in association with the Table Tennis Federation of India and state bodies around the country.
The 11Even Sports Inter-School Table Tennis State Championships will be conducted in 27 states from August 29 to 31 with a national championship to be held from December 9 to 11, tentatively in Indore.
The tournament will have four categories — senior boys, senior girls, junior boys and junior girls — and will be played on a knockout basis.
“We want to churn out the best talent. The road to the Olympics should start from the school.
“With this tournament, we hope to build the athletes who will compete at the 2024 Olympics,” Mehta added.
The first edition of the tournament was held in 2015 across 19 States in the country. A total of 1121 (672 boys and 449 girls) teams and 3226 players (1953 boys and 1273 girls) had participated in the tournament.