History beckons the Indian men’s table-tennis team primed to create history at the Olympic qualifiers that get underway in Gondomar, Portugal on Wednesday.
The trio of veteran Indian table-tennis star Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai seeded fifth in the tournament, need just a quarter-final finish to ensure its maiden qualification as a team at the Summer Games. Unless the team play badly, there’s no denying them a spot at the quadrennial event.
In the past games, Indian players have played only in individual events but now three of them being in top-100 shows the rapid strides India has taken at the highest level.
The men’s team get their campaign underway when they face Luxembourg in their opening match and women, seeded 17th, face a formidable Sweden.
Ahead of the tournament, the squad had a camp in Chennai before it travelled to Germany to train with its national team.
Despite the lack of a head coach since the 2019 Asian Games, Indian players have been producing impressive on the professional circuit. The men’s team had ended a 60-year wait by winning a historic bronze at the Asian Games in Jakarta.
The contingent’s campaign got even better. Sharath and Manika Batra, who won four medals at the preceding Commonwealth Games, bagged a surprise bronze in the mixed doubles.
Nine qualifying spots are on offer at the ITTF organised event. A top-eight finish guarantees Olympic qualification. Korea is the top seed in men’s category, followed by Chinese Taipei, Sweden, France and India. Hong Kong is the top seed in women’s event, followed by Chinese Taipei, Singapore, Korea and Romania.