The ace Indian paddler won four medals – three gold and a silver for the country.
Achanta Sharath Kamal was made the flag-bearer of the Indian contingent at the Commonwealth Games 2022 on the back of an impressive outing. Indian sports hit new heights in the recently concluded Games in Birmingham. Despite missing out on major medal-winning disciplines like shooting and archery and the absence of Neeraj Chopra, India won 61 medals including 22 gold, 16 silver and 23 bronze medals.
The achievements there continue the rapid improvement achieved by Indian sportsmen and sportswomen in the last few years. History was made as India won their first medal in the lawn bowls event, and to top the achievement, it was a gold medal. The Indian women’s cricket team too won silver for the first time among other sports where the Indian sporting contingent achieved many historic firsts.
Table tennis was among the chief contributors to medals for India in the Commonwealth Games. The Indian table tennis team won seven medals, including 4 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze medal. India’s legendary paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal picked up three out of the four gold medals and also won the silver in the men’s doubles event.
Achanta Sharath Kamal’s road to success
The veteran table tennis player had the campaign to remember for his unprecedented achievements. Kamal came to the Commonwealth Games in good form having won the bronze medal in the World Table Tennis Contenders in Doha.
The 40-year-old started his quest for gold by winning gold in the men’s team event. Combining up with fellow paddlers Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (who won the bronze in the men’s singles), Harmeet Desai and Sanil Shetty. Kamal led his team from the front as the Indians blew away the Singapore team to clinch the gold.
He followed up the team win by clinching gold along with young starlet Sreeja Akula in the Mixed Doubles event. The duo combined together to see off the Malaysian challenge in the gold medal match from Choong Javen and Karen Lyne. Interestingly, Akula was only a seven-year-old when Sharath Kamal won his first singles gold medal at the Commonwealth Games 2006, Melbourne. Now that’s longevity!
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Last laugh against the English pair
In what would have been an unprecedented sweep of gold medals, Sharath Kamal missed out on winning the gold in the men’s doubles as he and his partner Sathiyan Gnanasekaran were undone by the local pair of Liam Pitchford and Paul Drinkhall.
But, Kamal had the last laugh in the men’s singles event. He brought all his class to the fore to defeat local lad Liam Pitchford in the gold medal match. The experienced paddler started by going a game down with Pitchford being egged on by the home crowd. But the champion paddler brought all his experience to win the next four games in a row to clinch gold. It is only his second singles gold medal in the Commonwealth Games, sixteen years after he won his first in Melbourne.
So how big are Sharath Kamal’s achievements?
As mentioned before, Sharath Kamal won four medals in total including three golds. His tally of three gold medals actually places him 17th in the overall Commonwealth Games medal table if Kamal was a nation. The 40-year-old’s tally alone is greater than the tally of 27 nations participating in the Commonwealth Games.
His wins in the Birmingham edition took his total Commonwealth Games tally to 13 medals with 7 gold, 3 silver and three bronze. It makes him one of the most decorated sportsmen in the competition’s history.
But most importantly, it is the consistency that Sharath Kamal brings to the fore that has endeared him to fans. India’s poster boy in table tennis continues to rack up the medals and add to his legacy. The only hope now remains that he can end India’s medal drought in table tennis in the Olympics. With him not seemingly slowing down and the quality of the Indian table tennis team, it builds more hope and excitement for the future with the veteran paddler continuing to lead and inspire his nation on the global table tennis circuit.