18 years, 0.5 medals — Can Indian table tennis players finally flourish at World Youth Championships?
Packing in a lot of punch and promise, India's young contingent at the World Youth Table Tennis Championships looks strong enough to end the medal drought.
Given the good medalling streak Indian table tennis has been enjoying in 2021 particularly, the heart of the adventurous and ambitious Indian table tennis fan cannot help but expectantly look ahead at the ITTF World Youth Table Tennis Championships that is due to start from 2nd December in Portugal. If the seniors on the circuit, like Manika Batra, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Achanta Sharath Kamal, and Harmeet Desai have been doing well consistently, the juniors are keeping pace with them as well and stand out by their own merit. This pack of youngsters are motley and motivated with a wide range of skills and a unified mindset to go out there and conquer and they all share the same common pangs of hunger for a medal shower.
Led by the likes of U-15 World No. 3 Suhana Saini, U-17 World No. 4 Yashaswini Ghorpade, and U-17 World No. 2 Payas Jain, India has been doing exceptionally well on the youth table tennis circuit, stacking up gold medals galore across European WTT tournaments, to mention a few. Undaunted to face the Chinese or go toe-to-toe with the world's best, this troop of youngsters seems most likely to end the medal-starved condition of the nation at the World Youth Championships.
Starting in 2003 as the World Junior Championships (played only till U-18 stages), the prestigious event has only seen India earning only half a medal so far. It has been 18 years since the event has started and only in 2010 did erstwhile table tennis sensation Soumyajit Ghosh pair up with a Hong Kong player, Ng Wing Nam, in Mixed Doubles to win a bronze medal there. In table tennis, unlike tennis or most other sports, a medal is noted as 'half' if it is won by a player in doubles where both the players do not belong to the same country. As Ghosh's partner was from Hong Kong, the bronze medal is considered only a 'half'.
The tournament has changed in proportions now and also includes U-19 now and is known as the World Youth Championships currently and India will be fielding players in every category of the event - men's team, women's team, men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles, mixed doubles in the U-15 category and in the U-19, India won't participate in the U-19 men's team only. With so many young and talented paddlers ready to start their campaign and give it their best, a medal shower just may be imminent and the 'half' medal can turn into fuller ones.
Here's the Indian squad for the World Youth Championships:
U-19: Payas Jain | Swastika Ghosh | Diya Chitale | Yashaswini Ghorpade | Lakshita Narang
U-15: Preyesh Raj | Suhana Saini | Abhinandh | Shankhadip | Ankur | Kaashvi | Sayali | Pritha