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India paddler Sathiyan plots medal surprise in Tokyo

2 minute read

Table Tennis - Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games - Mixed Doubles Semifinal 2 - England v India - Oxenford Studios - Gold Coast, Australia - April 14, 2018. Sathiyan Gnanasekaran of India in action. REUTERS/Jeremy Lee/File Photo

NEW DELHI, May 7 (Reuters) - India have yet to win an Olympic medal in table tennis but the country's leading paddler Sathiyan Gnanasekaran believes he can break that jinx in Tokyo this year.

The tech-savvy 28-year-old from Chennai has innovated to stay sharp since the COVID-19 crisis struck last year threatening his Olympic hopes.

Sathiyan has since been sparring with a robot he had imported from Germany and roped in a local player this year after qualifying for Tokyo in March.

"I do play with the robot daily to work on my speed and other specific areas," Sathiyan told a virtual media conference arranged by the Sports Authority of India on Friday.

"I've been a very good player on the speed front, but I need to inject more power into my strokes.

"(Sparring partner) Anirban Ghosh and I are really working on that. We've been playing around seven hours a day. It's been almost just table tennis, food, and sleep for the last few weeks."

Sathiyan played in the Polish Superliga and the Japanese league this year and valued the experience.

"The reason I wanted to go to Japan was the quality of their league and its players. I've never played in such a tough league."

"Playing in Tokyo was also a good plan, which allowed me to get used to the conditions. I'm sure that will help me during the Olympics."

Sathiyan was part of the India team who beat Japan in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and won the bronze medal.

"Winning against a formidable Japan team in the Asian Games put a lot of belief in ourselves. It showed we can win against the superpowers."

"I hope I can really put up a strong show in Tokyo and who knows... if I can go all the way and win a medal, that would be something historic."

Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Ken Ferris

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