How Sharath Kamal relied on yoga and visual imagery technique to prepare himself for Tokyo 2020

Veteran Indian table tennis player Sharath Kamal will be bidding for his first medal at the Olympics in Tokyo 2020.
By Samrat Chakraborty

Veteran Indian table tennis player Sharath Kamal understands the stress and anxiety that an Olympian can undergo during the Games. After all, he has represented India at the mega event thrice: but his search for Olympic glory still continues.

Kamal made his maiden Olympic appearance in Athens 2004. He later became the lone Indian paddler to qualify for Beijing 2008. His third appearance at the Olympics, meanwhile, came in Rio 2016.

At 38, Tokyo 2020, could well be his last appearance at the Olympics. But his focus is on fitness, taking care of his body even in the twilight of his career.

The Chennai-based paddler specially took aid of yoga, something that he was regular at during his school days, to become more aware of his body. It also helped release stiffness from his body.

“Flexibility is not my forte as I am used to playing a power game. Yoga helped me work on that,” Kamal, who will be representing India at the men's singles and mixed team event at Tokyo 2020, told The Hindu.

Achanta Sharath Kamal has represented India at three Olympics

Moreover, he also took aid of mental imagery technique from Dr Swaroop Savanur, a mental conditioning and peak performance coach with Lakshya Sports, on how to maintain his muscle memory. He was also taught by Savanur, to remain calm and composed, during any challenging situation which arises during a game.

However, the veteran focused on his diet and fitness sessions ahead of Tokyo 2020 and put up a special chart which shows how much fat he should shed to be fit and in shape for the Olympics.

"We had a plan. And I'm able to stick mostly to it," Kamal told the Olympics.com.

The nine-time national champion also believes that fitness is of utmost importance at his age as most of the players he competes against are around 10 years younger to him. "Unless I'm not fit, I will not be able to take these guys on physically," the Chennai-based player said.

It will, however, be the experience that he will be counting on at Tokyo 2020 to make the most of his performances at the mixed team and men's individual events.

Sharath Kamal will be first in action on Saturday in the mixed team event, along with Manika Batra, where they will take on fifth seeded Chinese Taipei pair of Lin Yun-ju and Cheng I-ching.

In men's singles, Sharath Kamal has received a bye in the first round (thanks to his seeding) and will directly play the second round on July 26 where he will face the winner of the first-round match between Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia and Nigeria’s Olajide Omotayo.