NEW DELHI: Indian table tennis teams, both men’s and women’s, recently scripted history by booking their tickets to this year’s Paris Olympics. It will be the first time India will compete in the table tennis team events at the Olympics.
Earlier, both the Indian teams failed to secure direct qualifications to the Paris Games, after losing their respective pre-quarterfinals matches at the World Table Tennis Championships in Busan, South Korea.The prestigious tournament offered Olympic quotas to the quarter-finalists.
It could have been ‘so close, yet so far away’ for the Indian teams, but they finally made the cut through their world rankings. The Indian women’s team qualified through their latest rankings of 13, while the men’s team makes it as 15th ranked team.
After the historic qualification to the Summer Games, India’s top-ranked table tennis player Manika Batra delved into their qualification journey, challenges, preparations ahead of the Olympics, aspirations, dreams, and much more during an exclusive chat with TimesofIndia.com. Excerpts:
How was the journey to qualifying for the Paris Olympics?
The experience of the World Championships this year was satisfying. Everything was very good in the way we all played and the team’s spirit. The team spirit played an important role. Sreeja, Ayhika, Diya, Archana — we were supporting and cheering for whoever was out there on the court. We displayed our abilities well this time, playing like fighters against every team, be it China or Hungary.
Yes, we had this national camp before the World Championships. The camp helped us a lot individually, and staying with the team improved our synergy. We are happy that we eventually qualified for the Olympics in the women’s team for the first time. So we will prepare really well for the big event.


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Were there any major challenges you encountered en route to qualifying for the Olympics?
There were challenges, some good challenges, I would say. All the matches were very close encounters, against China and Hungary; the one against Spain was an important one. We were 0-2 down, but the way we won the match 3-2 from that point was vital for us.
Planning how to make the comeback was a huge challenge for us at that time. Then Ayhika won her third match, I won my match, and then Sreeja won the last one. That was a challenging match for us. Apart from that, there were not many challenges as we all were so focused on giving our 100 per cent in this team tournament.
How do you prepare physically for such a high-stakes competition like the Olympics?
We do have limited time left before the Olympics. I will do my best to improve every aspect of my game, be it my table skills or the physical side of the game. I will also focus on my recovery as I want to go fresh into the Olympics. The women’s team will plan together how to train collectively. That would ultimately help us during the team matches. Right now, I will be focusing on singles with my coach Aman Balgu.


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I would like to train in India for singles because I have a different style. But for the team training, we need to be together. We are yet to plan whether to train in India or outside India because we have to be together. We will plan that accordingly.
What are the goals that you have set for yourself both team wise and individually?
I want to win a medal this time. I will just focus on putting in the effort without thinking too much about the results. I don’t know what the results will be. But it is my aim to win a medal, and I will go with that goal only, nothing less.


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