CHENNAI: The intensity in his game was there but the customary roar was missing after G Sathiyan thrashed Pakistan’s Muhammad Rameez to clinch his maiden Olympic berth at the Asian qualifiers in Doha on Thursday night. A strain in his right shoulder meant that Sathiyan had to be on painkillers and ice baths for the last few weeks, but the 28-year-old was relieved to have confirmed his ticket for Tokyo.
“I didn’t have the energy in my shoulder to do over-the-top celebrations on Thursday. The first thing I did after returning to my room was to pack my TT racquet kit and keep it inside my suitcase. I won’t be touching it for the next week as it’s rest and recuperation now,” Sathiyan told TOI on Friday evening.
A shoulder strain that occurred during the Nationals last month only got worse as Sathiyan kept pushing himself in back-to-back tournaments in Doha. In the clash against Sharath Kamal on Thursday, Sathiyan had to apply spray on his shoulder before continuing his game. “I won the first two games before he pulled things back. At 2 games apiece, I chose to apply the spray as I didn’t want to push too much which will result in an injury,” Sathiyan said. The first person he remembered once his qualifiers ended was his father who passed away in 2015. “I miss him each day and he would have been pleased to see me being a part of the Indian contingent in Olympics,” he said.
Sathiyan is scheduled to arrive in India on March 22 but will travel in the first week of April to feature in the Polish league. For Sathiyan and his long-time coach S Raman, the milestone on Thursday was just the first step in pursuit of the ultimate prize – an Olympic medal. “Qualifying was an important criterion which he has achieved now. We will work with renewed focus in the coming months,” Raman mentioned.
The pandemic and the subsequent lockdown were used well by Sathiyan to make a string of changes to his game. Raman drafted Mission 2.0 — designed to take Sathiyan’s game to the next level. A checklist of things which focused on all aspects of his game — physical and mental — was put in place. Yoga was introduced into Sathiyan’s fitness regime. From trying out a new racquet using fresh rubber, to training with robots — Sathiyan made the best possible use of the lockdown. “The results are for all to see. I can’t thank Raman sir enough for the efforts he has put in for my game,” said Sathiyan.
The World No. 38 is in talks with players from other countries to come and train with him in Chennai in the lead up to the Olympics. “I am speaking to a few players in Singapore, China and other nations. We are mindful of the quarantine rules and hope to make some headway in the coming weeks,” said Sathiyan.