India’s table tennis star Sathiyan Gnanasekaran is one of the four paddlers who will represent India at Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The 28-year-old, who is currently ranked 32 in the world, is a triple medallist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. 

It was In May 2019 that Sathiyan had attained his career best world ranking of 24 after some brilliant showings in the CWG and the Asian Games. Sathiyan had followed his CWG exploits with an Asian bronze medal in 2018, a feat that earned him the Arjuna Award that year.

The Chennai-born is also the first Indian paddler ever to break into the World Top-25 ITTF rankings.In this exclusive chat with SportsAdda, the Indian paddler speaks about his debut Olympic campaign.

“I am really excited. It’s been my childhood dream to be a part of the Olympic contingent,” Sathiyan said.

“I started literally growing up seeing those five rings the moment I started playing table tennis. Finally, I am a part of that contingent. It’s  been a difficult journey but it’s a great feeling to be at the biggest stage,” he added.

The Indian paddlers had dominated the 2018 Commonwealth Games with Manika Batra winning two gold, a silver and a bronze medal. Making his CWG debut, Sathiyan had bagged a gold, a silver, and a bronze medal each. It was followed by an impressive men’s team bronze at the Asian Games as well.

An excited Sathiyan is optimistic about Indian paddlers extending their momentum to the biggest stage of all in the Olympics as well. “We have been creating history for the past few years now. We had record medals in the Commonwealth Games and we have won the historic Asian Games medal for the first time in 60 years,” he said. 

The Indian team has performed really well. We are in the golden era of table tennis so I feel we have  a great chance at the Olympics this time. This is the best Indian contingent going to Tokyo. If we do have a good draw and if we go all guns blazing, we can get that elusive Olympic medal in table tennis for India.” Sathiyan said.

The biggest challenge for G Sathiyan was to keep his mental and physical sharpness within the confines of his home, during the pandemic induced lockdown, which had postponed the mega-event by a year. 

The paddler was yet to qualify for the Olympics and he took his chance as soon as it came earlier this year in March. Shedding light on the delay in the Olympics he said,For me, I would say it’s a blessing in disguise. I had one year of extra preparation for the Olympic games.” 

“I feel like a mature player now with better preparation to analyse more on myself what will be better for me. I think this is going to be an advantage for sure. Yes, everyone would have loved to play at that point of time. 

“We didn’t expect it to be pushed by a year due to the pandemic but the best you can do in a given situation is to improve a lot and I hope I can put out a much better performance in 2021,” Sathiyan added.

Given the strong and proven contingent that India have sent to the Summer Games this time, Tokyo 2020 is expected to see the nation fetching more medals than their best Olympic outcome of London 2012. 

Sathiyan has a realistic target as well. This is the most asked question. It’s really hard to predict but I feel if we take around 10 medals, it’s going to be fantastic,” he said.

“Not only Table Tennis, every contingent is going with the best team possible. I am sure we will break that magical number of getting into the double digits,” he concluded.

Written by : Saumin Parmar

Featured photo : Sathiyan Gnanasekaran / Instagram