Ace paddler Sharath Kamal, who clinched a historic mixed doubles bronze with Manika Batra at the Asian Games last year, feels the road to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics seems difficult in the newly-introduced category, but once the spot is booked, a medal win was possible. “I think mixed doubles is our biggest chance to have that medal (in the Olympics). Firstly, me and Manika did well at the (Asian) Games. I think more than the Olympic Games, the qualification to the Games is harder (in the category),” Sharath told a select group of reporters on Thursday.
“I say so as there are only 16 teams at the Olympic Games so that you start from the round of 16. If you win three matches, you have a medal. So, it’s only three matches there, but to get there – that’s the more difficult path,” Sharath pointed out.
“We are preparing for that. We are exclusively training for mixed doubles and trying to spend more time, because mixed doubles qualification will be through pro-2-tournaments (various ITTF ranking events) this year. So it’s a ranking of a complete year and we need to perform consistently over the year,” he explained.
The mixed doubles category has been included in the Olympics for the first time in the Tokyo Games.
The Chennai-based paddler had also guided the men’s team to a historic bronze at the Asian Games with a shock win over Japan, ending a 60-year wait for a medal in table tennis.
Sharath and rising star Manika then clinched a surprise bronze in mixed doubles to cap off a dream run at Asian Games, raising hopes of even an Olympic medal.
Kamal denied that mixed doubles put extra pressure on his singles show.
“No, a qualification is a qualification. Doesn’t matter if you qualify for mixed doubles or singles. Singles – we are pretty sure that we will make it through. So the emphasis is more on team and mixed doubles because those are the places where we have not made it.
“Singles, if you don’t make it through any of the tournaments, which is very very difficult, we will still make it through the world ranking,” added the paddler who has won a record nine national titles.