CHENNAI: Saying Tamil Nadu has a rich history in table tennis is stating the obvious. The State produces the most medallists in this sport. A Sharath Kamal, A Amalraj, G Sathiyan and K Shamini are the current crop that has been doing TN proud. But, unlike any of the others, Sathiyan has a different ace up his sleeve — coach S Raman. The Arjuna awardee is a former India No 1, four-time national champion, Commonwealth Championships doubles gold medallist in 1997 & 2000. That’s quite a list!
World No 153 Sathiyan trains with Raman for a couple of hours, six days a week, at the JN Stadium’s indoor athletic track. The former believes fitness and mental conditioning has made a difference to the latter’s game, but there’s still work to be done. “He is currently ranked higher than he ever has been on the world stage, but it’s time he moves up the ladder,” Raman tells City Express.
News of the 48-year-old’s stature as one of the top coaches crossed State lines a few years back. That’s what led Rajasthan player Sudhanshu Grover to him five years ago, while North Bengal’s Ankita Das has been dropping in intermittently for the past year. “Ankita has decided to shift base here. It’s flattering to know that players from other states feel I offer something different. I remember Sudhanshu came to me as a 16-year-old. Now he’s ranked 103 in U-21.”
Opening an academy, with good infrastructure and facilities, seems to be the next logical step. Raman says the time is ripe for him to do so. “I’ve been inspired by what Pullela Gopichand has achieved with Sania Nehwal & Co in badminton. I think it’ll happen sometime this year... I feel confident,” Raman adds.
While he was not officially part of the World Team Championships’ support staff, Raman went to Kuala Lumpur to support India and even doled out some much-needed advice to Sathiyan and Sharath. Interestingly, the latter didn’t lose a match after the chat. And both men and women won gold in the second division, so, maybe Raman should open that academy pronto. He has earned it.