Indian paddlers won't go underprepared at Tokyo Olympics despite frightening COVID situation, says Sharath Kamal      

Sharath Kamal will be making his fourth Olympic appearance in Tokyo
Sharath Kamal will be making his fourth Olympic appearance in Tokyo

Despite this not being in an ideal environment for training amid the COVID-19 crisis in the country, star paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal has stated that India won’t go underprepared at the Tokyo Olympics which starts on July 23.

India’s healthcare system has stumbled badly in the wake of the second COVID-19 wave with the country reporting an average of three lakh new positive cases and 2000 deaths on a regular basis recently. India’s current COVID numbers stand at over 18 million positive cases with more than 200 thousand casualties.

Sharath Kamal, who will be making his fourth Olympic appearance, said though it is not the best way and atmosphere to prepare for the event, the players have to accept the reality and do the job at hand. Sharath Kamal is currently training in Chennai.

“It is not the way we should prepare for the Olympics, but we have to find a way to focus on our performance and work towards it. We are trying to keep ourselves afloat and try to achieve the goal. I don't think we are going to be underprepared,” said Sharath Kamal during a virtual press-conference arranged by SAI.
“In Doha, we all did very well. We stayed in India and trained with the resources we had. I felt my levels didn’t dip, which means preparation is fine, We can make use of what we have in hand. I don’t think we will have any regrets about preparation,” said the nine-time national champion.

Tokyo Olympics won't be the same as previous editions

Unlike the previous editions, the Tokyo Olympics won’t be same as far as the Olympic Village is concerned, thanks to the deadly coronavirus. There will be several protocols in place, athletes this time will be restricted from meeting others – some of whom had planned to meet their idols.

“This year it’s going to be different. It’s not going to be the ‘festival’ this time. That festivity or the celebration that is there when you go onto the Village won’t be there. In 2004 Athens, I was dining with Roger Federer,” Sharath Kamal continued.
“In 2008 Beijing, Kobe Bryant was there and we just walked past him and say ‘hello’. Then Novak Djokovic is sitting right next to you in the internet café. So this year there will be very less interaction and a very different scenario,” he added.

After some indifferent performances at the WTT Contender Series in Doha, India turned the tables at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers with Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra becoming the first Indian mixed doubles pair to qualify for the Olympics.

Sharath Kamal, Manika Batra complementing each other well

The 38-year-old Sharath Kamal has reiterated that mixed doubles is India’s best bet at the Tokyo Olympics and that things are on the right track. With 16 pairs in the event, the Indian duo need three wins to assure themselves of an Olympic medal.

'We're looking forward to having a good six-to-seven days of training every month before the Olympics. Manika was here in Chennai last week. We have divided out training in a few divisions where we want to focus on footwork and coordination in the first part before going to more tactical aspects of our game in the second part,” Sharath Kamal said when asked about preparations.
“Because of her different style of play, Manika is able to slow down the game fantastically well and I am able to speed it up from there to the highest level. I think from that point on we are able to complement each other very well and that is where the opponent also are not comfortable playing us,” he signed off.

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Edited by S Chowdhury
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