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Achanta Sarath Kamal nominated for Khel Ratna

Published at :November 15, 2022 at 11:27 PM
Modified at :November 15, 2022 at 11:27 PM
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The paddler will receive the prestigious award on November 30.

40-year-old Achanta Sharath Kamal is conferred India’s highest sporting honour Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award for his excellence in Table Tennis. Many athletes peak between the age of 25 to 30 but in the case of Sharath Kamal, his career peaked only after the age of 30 and continues to fight hard at the fag end of his career. In 2019 he was conferred with India’s fourth highest civilian honour “Padma Shri” by the President of India.

Beginning of the professional career

Sharath Kamal started to play professionally at the age of 16 and won his first senior National medal at the National Games held in 2002. He won his first Senior National Championships in 2003 and to date holds the record for winning the most number of Senior National Championships (10). He eclipsed the record held by Kamalesh Mehta (8). 

After being initially selected for the 2002 Commonwealth Games trials he got a call-up to the National squad for the 2003 World Championships making his debut. Since then he has actively participated in the majority of the World Championships (excluding 2022). The paddler has represented India at the Olympics four times (2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, 2016 Rio, and 2020 Tokyo) having missed out on the 2012 London Games where he was out of form.

2020 Tokyo Olympics

The most epic match of Sharath’s career shall be the 2020 Tokyo Olympics match against the favourite Chinese Ma Long. Sharat showed great skills and character for the initial few games and even went on to win a set. Although the scorecard, in the end, will not depict how close the match was but will go down as one of the best matches he has played in his entire career. 

2010 was a breakthrough year for Sharath Kamal winning the ITTF Egypt Open but everything went downhill after that dropping down to 94 in the world rankings and eventually not qualifying for the London Olympics. After a decade Sharath won an ITTF tournament in March 2020 held in Oman beating higher-ranked Frietas from Portugal.

Represented foreign clubs

He is one of the few Indians to play in foreign leagues and has represented clubs across Europe. Sharath has represented San Sebastian from Spain, SV Werder Bremen (Bundesliga) from Germany, Siracusa from Italy, and Borussia Dusseldorf from Germany whom he still represents. Apart from Sharath Kamal India’s current number 1 paddler Sathiyan Gnanasekaran too actively plays for various clubs. He is the first Indian to participate in the first division of the Japanese League where top players from Japan participate.

The star paddler has a good connection with the Commonwealth Games winning multiple gold medals across all the sections. In the recently concluded 2022, Commonwealth Games Shart Kamal won four gold medals defeating top-seeded players from Nigeria and England.  

Success at Commonwealth Games

Overall the paddler has won 13 medals for India at the Commonwealth Games (7 gold, 3 silver, and 3 bronze medals) the most by any Indian paddler at the Commonwealth Games. But when it comes to Asian Games he has not had a good record winning only two bronze medals across four editions he has participated in. He won two bronze medals at the 2018 Asian Games in the team events.

2018 was the golden year for Indian Table Tennis where India won several medals both at the Asian and Commonwealth Games. Manika Batra and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran along with Sarath Kamal were instrumental in taking India forward since then. With the Asian Games set to be held in 2023, Sharath Kamal will have his task cut out as he will be playing for the final time at the continental event. Indian's only chance of getting to the podium will be in the team events and Sharath and Sathiyan donning the men's doubles section.

After a successful campaign in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Sharath Kamal suffered a back injury in the quarter-finals at the recently concluded National Games but has started to train since then. He rested himself from playing in the team World Championships held in China, in 2022 after the conclusion of the National Games.

In many interviews, Sharath has mentioned how he has stayed fit throughout his career by not eating oily food and sweets and taking care of his diet even during the Pandemic. The next two years will be the most important years for the paddler with the 2022 Asian Games and 2024 Paris Olympics.