India look for extra London Olympics TT berth

January 9th, 2012 - 12:01 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 8 (IANS) India is looking for an extra table tennis berth at the 2012 London Olympics, assuming one each in the men’s and women’s singles qualify as they have been doing since the sport made its debut in Seoul in 1988.New national coach Leszek Kucharski is confident that two men and one woman will make it to the London Games. The Pole, who took up the assignment in the last week of November 2011, says he has to work overtime to get results as he has very little time on hand.

“I realise I dont’ have much time to work with the players, all I know is that I have a bunch of talented youngsters and my gut feeling is that three should qualify,” Kucharski told IANS from the Netaji Subhash National Institute of Sports, Patiala, where he will be conducting a camp for seniors ahead of the Asian Championships in Macau next month.

Kucharsk’s contract is till the end of Olympics in July-August and he realises his job is only to prepare the players for the Olympic qualification tournament.

India’s Olympic hopes in the men’s category revolve around 2006 Commonwealth Games (CWG) gold winner Sharath Kamal and his longtime teammate Anthony Amalraj.

Sharath has not played in many tournaments recently, making his world ranking dip to 79 from 40 in one year. He still remains India’s best bet by a fair distance.

Amalraj and 2010 CWG doubles gold medallist Subhajit Saha alongside Sharath can also spring a surprise at the Olympic qualification round in April. They are 251 and 253 in the latest rankings.

Shamini Kumaresan (247), member of silver-winning team at the Delhi Games, and Ankita Das (230) are expected to qualify from the women’s quota.

Talking of Indian players’ chances, Arjuna Awardee and two-time Olympian Kamlesh Mehta said: “Sharath might not have played in many tournaments in recent months, but he should qualify for London. Amalraj has been playing well and his stint in Germany has made him a better player. Subhajit is another one who can qualify,” said Mehta.

“As for women, Shamini is a very attacking player and has a good chance. Ankita’s quarterfinal finish in the World Juniors has raised expectations,” he said.

The Olympic draw is for 72 in both the men and women’s singles. The top-28 in the world in each category get a direct entry, 40 make it from the continental qualifications, two from the final world qualification event, one gets an invitational berth and a single spot has been reserved for the hosts. A maximum of two men and women players per gender can represent their country in singles event.

Sharath and Neha Aggarwal were the two Indians who qualified for the 2008 Beijing Games.

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