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Tokyo Olympics 2020: TTFI assures it will hire Head Coach for four-year Olympic cycle

FEATURED WRITER
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Modified 07 Feb 2020, 19:29 IST

Manika Batra
Manika Batra

What's the story?

The Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) has promised to hire a Head Coach for the complete four-year Olympic cycle by the coming month.

The background

Indian paddlers have been playing without a Head Coach since September 2018. The post has been lying vacant ever since the sudden departure of former Head Coach Massimo Costantini. Massimo, who is now working with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), did not inform TTFI of his plans to depart in advance causing trouble for the Federation to find his replacement.

The Indian Men's team were favorites to make the cut for Tokyo Olympics 2020 during the Olympic Team qualifiers held in Portugal last month. The Women's Table Tennis team was expected to do well and had a decent chance of securing a berth. However, both the Men's and Women's teams crashed out in the respective Round of 16 encounters. They would have been able to make the cut for the quadrennial extravaganza had they made it though to the quarters.

While the poor performance during the Olympic qualifiers can not be solely attributed to the absence of a Head Coach, there is no doubt that his/her presence would have certainly made a positive impact with corrective guidance.

Now the Indian paddlers only have a chance of making it to the Summer Olympics in individual events (singles and mixed doubles), the qualifying event for which will be held in April.

The heart of the matter

After the below-par performance of Indian paddlers at the Olympic Qualifiers, the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) has confirmed that it will bring on board a head coach soon and the contract would be signed for four years, that is the complete Olympics Cycle. Earlier, the contract had to be renewed annually. 

Speaking on the development, TTFI secretary general M.P. Singh told PTI:

"Most teams employ coaches for a four-year Olympic cycle. So when he (Massimo) suddenly left, we had only limited options to choose from and even that did not work out for us. Going forward, we have decided to hire a coach for four years instead of renewing his contract every year. We have also got the Sports Ministry’s approval for that."

Earlier in 2019, Canadian Coach Dejan Papic had been approached for the role and he had accepted it as well. However, a knee surgery prevented him from joining the Indian team. This, in addition to the 2019 general elections, further delayed the appointment of the national team Head Coach.

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Singh further added:

"I am confident that by next month, we would have zeroed in on the coach. The women’s team narrowly missed out on an Olympic berth but played well. However, the men’s team, which should have qualified, crumbled under pressure."

What's next?

If we are to ignore the performance at the Olympic Team Qualifiers, the Indian paddlers have done supremely well in the past 18 months despite the absence of a head coach. Three of India's top male paddlers - Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (World Rank 30), Sharath Kamal (World ank 34) and Harmeet Desai (World Rank 90) along with Manika Batra (World Rank 67) in the women's singles are all in the top 100 as far as the World Rankings are concerned. 

Notwithstanding, the Olympics is around the corner and the guidance of an experienced Head Coach will be of paramount importance for the Indian paddlers, who will be looking to leave the disappointment of team qualifiers behind them and focus on qualifying for the individual events.

Published 07 Feb 2020, 19:29 IST
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