Sathiyan, who topped the South Asian group qualified for his maiden Olympics and will have the company of veteran Sharath. “Qualifying for the Olympics was a childhood dream and this is one of the best moments in my life. I am just happy to be playing in the biggest tournament that’s there in the sport,” Sathiyan told TOI. Sathiyan had played the competition through a shoulder niggle and he is hoping to get some rest in the coming days. “It will be some rest and recuperation before I get back to training. Playing with pain has been tough but qualifying for the Olympics was worth the effort,” he said.
The women’s singles saw Sutirtha beat Manika 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, 4-11, 11-5, 11-5 to make the cut. It was a winner-takes-all clash as Sutirtha and Manika were the only two players from the South Asian region. Manika too qualified by virtue of her ranking.
Very happy to have qualified for my 4th Olympic Games, in men’s singles. Focused now on the mixed doubles qualifica… https://t.co/p3lVMbWj4p
— Sharath Kamal OLY (@sharathkamal1) 1616070339000
Sathiyan looked in great nick as he first got the better of Sharath in a keenly-fought clash 4-3 (11-9, 15-13, 5-11, 7-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-8) before humbling Pakistan’s Rameez Muhammad 4-0 (11-5, 11-8, 11-9, 11-2) late in the day. In the game against Sharath, Sathiyan quickly raced to a two-game lead. Sharath, the seasoned campaigner, then began to pull things back. Sharath won the next three games as the scoreline read 3-2 in his favour. However, Sathiyan – who won his maiden National singles crown last month – hit back to clinch the next two games to win the match. “It is a memorable moment for us because we have dreamed this together. To actually see Sathiyan qualify for the biggest stage makes me extremely proud and it shows years of hard work put in by him,” Sathiyan’s long-time coach S Raman mentioned.
Sharath’s Tokyo ticket got confirmed after registering a comprehensive win over Rameez. After the loss to Sathiyan, Sharath found himself in a must-win situation. The veteran upped the ante and had little trouble thrashing Rameez 11-4, 11-1, 11-5, 11-4 in just 23 minutes. Despite not topping the group, Sharath makes the cut based on his superior rankings. This will be Sharath’s fourth Olympics appearance. He had earlier been part of the Athens Games in 2004, Beijing four years later and Rio in 2016. “Each time I have qualified – it has been a special feeling. It’s no different this time as well. I must admit that I am feeling at my fittest best at 38,” Sharath told TOI.
The seasoned campaigner Sharath felt the younger lot such as Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai helped him to push at this age. “They work hard and motivate me to give my best as well,” he added.
Players in the Asian qualification meet were divided into five groups based on their geographical regions. The toppers of each group – South Asia, Central Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia – qualify for the Games. Western Asian players aren’t competing since they have qualified for the Olympics. Five group toppers automatically make the cut for the Olympics. The sixth place will be for the highest ranked player in the remaining lot.