A solid focus has always defined this 28-year-old. Not surprising then that India’s ace paddler, Achanta Sharath Kamal, has had a meteoric rise in world rankings this year —from 76 to a career-best 39.
The first Indian table tennis player to break into the top-50, Sharath has spawned expectations of a gold medal in this edition of the Commonwealth Games. Expectations though have never been heavy enough to weigh him down.
“Home support will play a crucial role in our performances. But it is only half the catalyst. Our training programme was well planned and the exposure trips have worked wonders. I am optimistic about our prospects,” he said.
With back-to-back wins in the US Open Championships and Egypt Pro Tour last month, Sharath feels his focus on fitness training has finally paid off. “I followed a committed fitness regimen since the beginning of the year. My training involves a lot of cardio and stretching. I have to be very agile and am working on my reflexes,” said the 2004 Arjuna Awardee who gave special credit to his coach Max Constantini.
“Max gives individual attention to each player and has custom-based plans ready before and during each tournament. For instance, he told me to work on my backhand (a weak point) during the test event in Delhi and it caught many of my opponents unawares. That is what special attention can do.”
In fact, Sharath feels the role of support and coaching staff is often undermined. “In the run-up to the Games, apart from individual ability and determination, it is the support staff that has to play a pivotal role. From our training to diet and even match analysis videos, these people form the fine line between a good performance and a match-winning one.”
Winning matches of course would be expected of the 2006 CWG gold-medallist who plays for San Sebastian de los Reyes club in Spain. “Sharath has a lot of potential and has repeatedly proved himself. A good performance at the Commonwealth Games would nicely set him up for the Asian Games where the level of competition is even more intense,” said India’s Italian coach Constantini.
The Chennai lad truly has his hands full. On Friday, he participated in the baton relay in his home city with hopes of making an indelible mark during the actual sporting extravaganza in Delhi come October.