Colts to paddle asian giants, Look to qualify for worlds
It’s been a year to remember for India’s junior paddlers. After doing well in different ITTF Pro Tours, South Asian Championships and Asian Youth Games, these youngsters now head to Doha to compete in the Asian Junior Table Tennis Championship, scheduled from August 30 to September 3.
A fourteen-member Indian contingent will leave for this event early on Thursday morning, and they will be accompanied by chief national coach Bhawani Mukherji from Chennai.
“This championship is like a qualifying tournament for the worlds. To qualify from Asia is quite tough as the level of competition is high. Also, the number of countries participating from Asia and Europe are more, so the ITTF announced that five, instead of four, countries will make the cut for the world championships,” Mukherji told TNIE before leaving for Doha.
The Dronacharya awardee added that India stood a good chance of winning a medal.
“We have a strong team. These youngsters are in good form and some of them have even won medals at the international level. As far as medal prospects are concerned, Abhishek Yadav, Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee have the potential to go all the way. It will not be easy to win a medal as it is as good as competing with Chinese players irrespective of whether we play against China, Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei or Hong Kong. Most of these countries have players who are from China or are of Chinese origin. But our team also has some strong players and cannot be written off easily,” added Mukherji.
Abhishek Yadav, who is India’s best bet, was also confident of winning a medal in Doha.
High on confidence after bagging a bronze medal in the Asian Youth Games held at Nanjing, the 17-year-old said, “I am definitely trying for a medal here, as well. My confidence is sky high and winning the Asian Juniors would be like a dream come true for me.”
If India win the quarterfinals, they will be assured of a place in the World Junior Championships to be held at Rabat (Morocco) in December.
Indian contingent: Junior boys (U-18): Abhishek Yadav, Sudhanshu Grover, Utkarsh Gupta, Rohit KR; Junior girls (U-18): Manika Batra, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Reeth Rishya, Ayhika Mukherjee; Cadet boys (U-15): Birdie Boro, Anirban Ghosh, Lalrin Puia; Cadet girls (U-15): Akula Sreeja, Sagarika Mukherjee, Harsha Vardhini.