‘Best is yet to come’, feels Sharath Kamal ahead of his fifth Olympics | Paris Olympics 2024 News

NEW DELHI: Achanta Sharath Kamal, the Indian flagbearer, is gearing up for his fifth Olympic appearance in Paris. At 41 years old, he continues to reach new milestones and firmly believes that his ‘best is yet to come’.
In 2022, Sharath showcased his exceptional skills at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, where he won three gold medals, including one in the men’s singles category, defying age-related expectations.
Although he did not secure any medals at the Asian Games in Hangzhou last year, Sharath played a crucial role in the Indian men’s team’s remarkable achievement.
Their last-16 finish at the World Table Tennis Championships in Busan in February helped them secure a historic Paris Olympics quota through world rankings.
“I am happy that I’m scaling new heights with each passing year, besides improving both physically and mentally. I hope the best is yet to come,” the top-ranked Indian told PTI.
“To highlight one particular achievement from my career would not do justice to my other achievements. The Asian Games bronze (Jakarta 2018) and Commonwealth Games gold are two of the highs of my career,” said Sharath, who boasts of 13 CWG medals in his cabinet.
“I’m pretty sure I haven’t left any stone unturned. I have done everything possible from my side, and I hope the results will follow,” added Sharath, who has climbed from being world No 88 to 34 in ITTF rankings.
Sharath, now a seasoned veteran, first embarked on his Olympic quest at the tender age of 21 during the Athens 2004 Games. With the return of his Italian coach, Massimo Costantini, by his side, he nurtures the ambition of securing a medal in his upcoming Olympic appearance.
“Back then, I didn’t know what getting into the Olympics was. But I have built up into the player I am right now, and hopefully, in my fifth Olympics, I have a chance to get that medal. And once that happens, I can be truly satisfied with my career,” he reckoned.
Costantini, aged 66, had two stints as the coach of the Indian team, first from 2009 to 2010 and then from 2016 to 2018. During his tenure, he played a crucial role in India’s remarkable achievements at two major multi-sport events.
Under his guidance, India secured an unprecedented tally of eight medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Following this success, the team went on to claim two bronze medals at the 2018 Asian Games held in Indonesia, further solidifying their position in the international arena.
“He brings a lot of confidence from around himself and to the team. It is something that I require since a lot of us are working individually. But how can we get it together, Max has been helping us in achieving it.”
But to speak of the reality, a podium finish is going to be an “uphill task”, Sharath acknowledged.
“It’s going to be very tough, and we are apparently seeded 14th or 15th, making the task even more uphill. But, we are optimistic as well because with the kind of form all of us have been playing.
“The girls are going to go a long way in the Olympics, same for the boys. We want to do it,” he said.
He further said he has learnt ‘periodisation’ or systematic training as he looks to implement the knowledge this time around.
“It has immensely helped me in preparations — trying to understand my body and mind. Periodisation is something that I have learnt over the years, and I’m looking to bring that knowledge into practice in Paris,” he said.
“I’m not getting younger any day. Age is not on my side, and I have to ensure that I reverse the clock. It is something that I’m trying to get better for this Olympics,” he said.
Sharath has undergone a series of tests to improve his performance through sports science. These tests include genetic scans and bone density scans.
“It was mainly to ensure that I don’t make mistakes about what exactly has to be done. For instance, I have an intolerance towards some substance, how to stay away from it and to have the best knowledge from sports science,” he explained.
“I did not have a major access to sports science before Tokyo, and only then I realised that it can help us in getting better. That’s the reason we do these tests to ensure that even the small differences go a long way, especially in situations like the Olympics.”
Sharath recently completed a month-long training program in Germany, where he admitted to focusing heavily on refining his technical skills. During the four-week session, he dedicated a significant amount of time to honing his technique and making improvements in various aspects of his game.
“There I focused a lot on working on my technical aspects and sharpening my skills, and I tried to practice with different levels of players in different conditions. It’s helped me a lot, and now it’s time to put all those (learnings) into action,” he added in the interaction arranged by Timelinks.

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