And then there was no trying again for Manika Batra.
The poster woman of Indian Table Tennis is presently in Tokyo for what will be her second Olympic look and is all set to compete in the Women’s Singles and the Mixed Doubles occasions. No Indian has ever received a TT medal at the Olympics. Will Manika be the first to break that jinx?
In a freewheeling chat with TimesofIndia.com, the 26 12 months outdated spoke about her TT journey, her life like objectives in Tokyo, her preparation for this version of the Olympics, her evolution as a participant, Indian TT vis a vis different Asian international locations and far more.
This is an element one of a particular chat with Manika Batra.
You are all set for the Tokyo Olympics. This will be your second Olympic look after the Rio Games in 2016. How excited are you?
This will be my second Olympics. I am excited and additionally ready. In the first Olympics (Rio 2016) I went to simply play. This time I am anticipating far more from myself. I am glad and excited as a result of qualifying for the Olympics and taking part in for your country itself is a giant factor. So, I am glad to be right here for my second Olympics
How are you feeling bodily and mentally? Are you content along with your preparation for the Tokyo Games?
Yes, I am very glad. Of course, not absolutely glad, as a result of no participant is ever absolutely glad along with his or her preparation for any match. But I am pleased with my preparation this time. Before the 2016 Games, I was not ready as a lot as I am this time. This time the coaching I have achieved in Pune, with all my assist workers – coach, physio and sparring associate, who’s from Belarus has been excellent. I am ready bodily and mentally too. Mentally is necessary, as a result of of the present state of affairs (Covid), which will imply we will have to keep powerful. So sure, I am ready.
The country of course all the time expects so much from the complete Indian contingent earlier than each Olympics. But each athlete, individually, additionally units some kind of life like expectations from the Games for himself or herself. What are the objectives that you’re setting for your self at the Tokyo Games?
In my thoughts, I am at the Tokyo Olympics for my country and I will give my finest, it doesn’t matter what. I will give my 100%. But I will not put that strain on myself whereas I am taking part in, that I have to win. At the again of my thoughts I will have that thought of course that I have to win for my country, however I do not want to put strain on myself. I simply want to take pleasure in and play my finest. I want to surprise myself.
Its time to go away for #Tokyo2020 https://t.co/QguBXVajv3
— Manika Batra (@manikabatra_TT) 1626534755000
For some time now, you’ve got been practising and residing in Tokyo time. Would or not it’s honest to say that you’re absolutely in Tokyo mode? You have been syncing your coaching time, sleep cycle and so forth to Tokyo time. You have been having 5 am follow periods…
We have to do that. I do not want a situation the place I have follow early in the morning and I maintain sleeping. I was getting ready myself for that. I was getting up at 4 am, with follow scheduled at 5am. This was achieved to put together myself mentally and bodily. I was making an attempt to play extra matches in the morning session. The physique is often lazy and drained at that point and I do not want it to be that method at the Olympics, which is why I was following that schedule
If you suppose again in your journey to this point, when was the first time you thought to your self – ‘sure I can go to the Olympics sometime and symbolize my country? ‘When an athlete retains bettering with time, there’s a part when she or he says to himself or herself ‘I can go to the Olympics’. When did this occur to you?
When I performed my first worldwide match. In 2011 I beat (Kasumi) Ishikawa (in a u-21 match in Santiago, Chile – Manika was 16 at the time), when she was ranked 4th in the world. She was an Olympian, so I thought, if I can beat her, I may go and play at the Olympics. And additionally when Col. Rajyvardhan Singh Rathore received the silver medal at the 2004 Athen Olympics – that gave me so much of motivation to attempt and attain the Olympics and play for my country. I felt that I wanted to win for my country too and symbolize my country at the Olympics.
Manika Batra together with her coach. (ANI Photo)
When did the TT journey actually start for Manika Batra? I was studying someplace that you just began taking part in at the age of 4, however how outdated have been you if you thought that that is one thing that may be changed into a profession and which you can pursue it severely?
I suppose that occurred just a little late. In 2008-09 I performed the US Open -an worldwide match. I received three medals there – two golds and one silver. At that point I thought -‘kuch ho sakta hai’ (taking part in TT severely is feasible). So if you happen to evaluate it with say the Chinese, the realisation occurred late. The Chinese for occasion begin very early and their objectives are set. They know that is what they’ve to do. So, my realisation occurred late, however I am glad it occurred. Also when you’re very younger and you win a state championship, that feeling is actually good. I actually loved these emotions when I was youthful.
And as soon as that realisation set in, did you watch any worldwide stars on TV or perhaps any movies? Did you’ve got a TT idol whereas rising up?
I used to watch Chinese participant Zhang Jike (Chinese male participant – 4 Olympic medals – 3 gold, 1 silver). Also Ding Ning (Chinese feminine participant – 4 Olympic medals – 3 gold, 1 silver). I love their model of play. I used to watch their matches on the web so much.
What in accordance to you is the largest distinction in say the Chinese set-up for TT or the Singapore or Japan mannequin vis a vis the Indian set-up?
I suppose they’re taught from a really early age, from when they’re 3-4 years outdated that they’ve to sometime play at the Olympics. Their coaches are very strict and be certain that their gamers are targeted solely on their sport and nothing else. So they determine gamers at a really younger age. That is a giant distinction. But, I suppose that has improved and modified so much in India. Now, you discover dad and mom who’re additionally eager on getting their kids right into a sport. That has been one massive change. Now the services and so forth can be found in India, thanks to authorities assist and so forth. Everyone could be very useful. So now, if a younger little one exhibits an curiosity, it is not like she or he will not get the assist or assist or motivation.
Manika Batra. (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)
One factor that has stood out in your profession to this point is how shortly you’ve got matured and improved as a TT participant. In 2011 you received the silver medal in the u-21 class at the Chile Open. In three years time, in 2014, you represented India at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. Would or not it’s honest to name that part in your profession the first one of immense and very fast improvement?
I don’t love to reward myself, however in my thoughts and coronary heart I know that I want to play for my country and win medals for my country. That emotional attachment could be very a lot there. That has all the time been there. And of course, I have additionally all the time been devoted and decided. That helped me enhance shortly. And after switching base to Pune, the place I am coaching now, I have learnt so much of issues, like work ethic, self-discipline and so forth. I have learnt these items very effectively. After I started coaching in Pune I have additionally defeated Chinese gamers in addition to Koreans, so I really feel I have improved so much since then as effectively.
Since we’re speaking about how shortly you’ve got improved in your profession, I have to discuss the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Memories of that competitors should nonetheless convey a giant smile to your face? Two golds, a silver, a bronze – you turned the first Indian feminine TT participant to win a CWG gold medal in the girls’s singles. Did your life change utterly after that?
For folks, sure. For me, that was simply the starting. I knew I had to work more durable than I already was and that I must be extra disciplined. When you win a medal for the country, you should not relaxation in your laurels and say that I am glad, I am achieved. I by no means suppose like that. After each match, I come again and I follow. Of course I will all the time have very fond reminiscences of the 2018 CWG. That was the first time I received a CWG medal and 4 of them. That will all the time convey a smile to my face, however I additionally know that I have to work exhausting and give my finest in each coaching session.
My subsequent query, as you may need guessed, is about the 2018 Asian Games and the historic bronze medal with Sharath Kamal in the Mixed Doubles. How troublesome was the journey to that medal for you?
That was our first medal at the Asian Games. And Sharath and I did not play collectively in any match earlier than that. In truth we hadn’t practiced collectively so much earlier than that both. But each of us have been individually taking part in effectively, so we managed to assist one another effectively. We gave our greatest and we have been pondering that we’re taking part in for India, so we’ve got to give our greatest, it doesn’t matter what.
And did you realise instantly after successful that medal how massive an achievement that was or did that realization seep in later?
No, I realised at that point itself. But the realisation was of course magnified far more later, when I heard folks speaking about how historic an achievement that was. We did not have an Asian Games TT medal earlier than that and it is actually powerful to play at the Asian Games, the discipline could be very aggressive. So sure, I felt excellent about it personally and I felt like I did one thing particular (laughs)
Manika Batra. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
We know simply how excessive the stage of competitors is at the Asian Games in TT. Would you say a TT medal at the Asian Games is sort of nearly as good as a TT medal at the Olympics in phrases of issue?
To be trustworthy, the Olympics of course is a giant massive occasion. But, the Asian Games are very powerful. All the high gamers, who’re often from Asia – Korea, China, Japan, Singapore are all there – so the Asian Games are more durable. Olympics are powerful in a unique sense as a result of of the strain of how massive the stage is. So, each are powerful in numerous methods.
But proper now you’re in Tokyo, so the massive objective is of course to win a medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Which occasion do you suppose you’ve got a greater probability of successful a medal in – the Women’ Singles or the Mixed Doubles?
To be trustworthy, in the singles, I will give my finest, it doesn’t matter what. I will attempt to attain the pre-quarters or quarters, after which we will have to see – as a result of after that stage it is about how the strain is dealt with. In the Mixed Doubles, we will have the Round of 16, we will have to win 3-4 matches for that. I do not want to say which occasion I have a greater probability of successful a medal in, however we (Manika and Sharath) will give our greatest. And personally, I can say I will give it my all to attempt and win a medal right here in Tokyo.
Have you recognized any potential opponents or massive threats at the Games this time as half of your coaching?
Yes. I have in actual fact educated as per potential opponents. My coach and I – we’ve got analysed their video games and so forth. I suppose all the gamers at the Games are at the identical stage, as a result of solely the high gamers go to the Olympics. Of course, the Asian gamers are the finest, so that they will be the hardest opponents. But even the Europeans and others – they too have come right here to win. All the rounds are going to be powerful, so I have to give my finest in each spherical, each sport
How necessary a job does diet play in an athlete’s life? How a lot has the concentrate on diet throughout energetic coaching developed over the years?
Health and Fitness as a way of life are half and parcel of an athlete’s journey. Good diet is necessary for the development and efficiency of an athlete. You can’t segregate one from the different. Eating wholesome and sustaining health have all the time been at the forefront for athletes. The definition of wholesome and diet retains on altering over the years. During energetic coaching, the focus is far more on diet to be the fittest, carry out higher and keep stronger.