Table tennis coach yet to take over as Olympics loom

Achanta Sharath Kamal is keen for guidance and coaching as the qualification fervor for the Tokyo Olympics takes over. AFP file photo

The Tokyo Olympics is just a year away but Indian table tennis players continue to be without a foreign coach.

After a long wait, the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) finalized Dejan Papic as the new foreign coach. However, Papic is yet to take over the new responsibility. It is understood Papic’s appointment has been cleared by the Sports Authority of India (SAI), but an approval from the Canadian is still awaited.

“Earlier there was a delay in clearance from the ministry but now his appointment has been confirmed. The TTFI sent him all the papers 4-5 days ago but we are yet to hear from him. We will take up the matter with him shortly,” a TTFI official said.

The delay has affected the Olympic preparations of paddlers. Under their last foreign coach Massimo Costantini, India paddlers put up historic performances in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. However, the long-serving Italian quit post Asian Games citing personal reasons.

“We don't know when he will be joining. It is affecting our preparation for the Olympics," said experienced Sharath Kamal.

"You can make out from the results- it is just me, G Sathiyan and Manika (Batra) who are doing well. We are training on our own and taking care of our singles training. But for doubles, especially mixed doubles, we need specialised coaching.”

Papic had met the senior Indian players during the World individual championships in Budapest, and was expected to join during the ongoing Commonwealth Championships in Cuttack. “He came for the world championships. Now in the next 11 months, he has to figure out everything. By the time he does, it will be December.”

Sharath, however, was optimistic of Indian teams qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. On the personal front he hoped to qualifying in qualification tournament.

“If it doesn't happen, I will have to play every tournament till June 2020 and from January to June there are 10 pro tours, apart from world qualification team, Asian qualification, world championship, Asia Cup in six months,” he said.

"I am just looking to produce my best performance in 8 tournaments instead of playing too many events."

Sharath was clear he would take time off after Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) to prepare for the Asian Championship in September.

"I want to prepare well for Asian Championship because there is a place for the Olympic qualification. We will have to beat China which is very difficult but it has a good rating points,” he said.

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