The year 2020 has been tiring and tough for almost everyone. With a deadly pandemic engulfing the world, almost everything including the sporting world came to a standstill. Under such a circumstance, it was highly difficult for all the sportspersons to stay motivated and carry on with their routines. It was no different for the world number 37 in Table Tennis, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran.
The Bridge caught up with the 27-year-old to have a chat about the year that went by and the highly anticipated 2021 table tennis season which beckons the fans and players alike.
Evaluating the year 2020 Sathiyan said, “It was definitely a tough year, which didn’t start on a good note of course; we failed to make the cut for the Olympics as a team. Then we started to get back into shape, I started playing well in Hungary, me and Sharath (Kamal Achanta) won a medal. Things were actually getting good, the Olympics was about to happen and we were in groove. But suddenly the world stopped. Everything went upside down due to Covid-19. Definitely a year to forget, I would say, but lot to learn about how to prepare in tough conditions, stay fit and be mentally prepared.”
Sathiyan, who is currently plying his trade for the Okayama Rivets in the Japanese T-League was all praise for the league and maintained that though he has won just one match in the league till now, he is absolutely relishing this opportunity of playing against opponents who are ranked much higher than him.
“I think the level here is amazing. This is my second tournament after the coronavirus break, so pretty much used to it. The level is far higher here, I am playing against players far better than me. It is a great experience. Even though we are playing without spectators the energy is up there at the top. Halfway through the tournament, I have won just one of the four matches I played. I am an underdog here and the one win where I beat the current Japanese national champion Uda Yukia was also an upset,” he said.
Sathiyan said that he is excited and is highly optimistic that both he and Sharath would make it to the Olympics in the men’s single category without any hiccups on the basis of their world rankings.
“Yes, very much excited for the coming year especially that I am already in Tokyo right now. I feel me and Sharath have a very good chance, with the world rankings we should almost clinch the Olympics berth for sure. The Olympics has to happen and both of us will play there,” Sathiyan said with an oozing confidence.
He was quick to point out that merely qualifying isn’t the aim and that he is determined to put up a good show when the quadrennial event starts.
“It’s not about qualifying, that’s going to happen for sure. My aim is to put up a great performance and that’s also the reason I am here in Tokyo to train. Setting the league aside, training with these top players and getting used to these conditions is the best training I could get.”
Apart from the Olympics, Sathiyan said that he is waiting for the changes in International Table Tennis structure with the World Table Tennis expected to start in the year. Along with that, he is also aiming to break into top 15 in the world rankings.
“There is going to be a lot of makeshift in the tournament structure table tennis in 2021, the World Table Tennis is being announced and we are awaiting the new ranking system. I was in top 25 earlier, of course I am hoping for top 20 and in fact top 15 is what I am aiming for. It is better to always aim high,” he concluded with a cheeky smile after saying something which seemed like a life advice.