CHENNAI:India's Youth Olympic contingent was set to leave for Buenos Aires early on Tuesday. All eyes will be on Manav Thakkar, especially after his recent run of winning medals in the Asian Junior and Cadet Table Tennis Championship (silver) as well as Asian Games (bronze).
He will be accompanied by Archana Girish Kamath and coach Soumyadeep Roy. Incidentally, for both the paddlers, this is their final year of playing junior tournaments and both want to sign off on a high. “We are confident and winning a medal will be the perfect way to sign off from junior meets,” Manav said from Delhi.
They did not have a camp as such because they had to take part in the 11Sports National Ranking (East Zone) Table Tennis Championships but Soumyadeep feels competitive match action is good preparation in itself. “Both of them played matches against senior pros and it is a good way to gear up. Manav even reached the senior finals. On top of that, our matches begin from October 7. We will have time to practice there.”
Manav, on his part, left no stone unturned as he had come down to Chennai before the Guwahati meet to practice with India’s top ranked paddler A Sharath Kamal.
“I’m really confident. The Asian Games medal has been like a shot in the arm. I have worked on my game and a lot on my fitness because games will be coming up thick and fast. Also, with my senior transition, I need to build a lot of muscle which I’m in the process of doing.”
With India having never won gold in two previous editions, this might be a golden chance. But Archana says there is no pressure. “We want to play our natural game. There is no reason why we cannot do well.”
Indian Olympic Association organised a preparatory session for the entire 46-member group, which includes CWG and Asian Games stars like Manu Bhaker, Mehuli Ghosh, Srihari Nataraj as well as Lakshya Sen. The sessions included meeting Olympic bronze-winning boxer Vijender Singh. Dietician Avni Kaul and sport psychologist Divya Jain were also part of the same.
“It was great meeting Vijender. He spoke to us about his early days and how he fought to be where he is. He asked to play without fear or pressure and it was really motivating. The other sessions were also nice and it was a nice send-off ceremony. And everyone there was excited to get down to business,” Archana said.