Know your Olympian: Paddler Sutirtha Mukherjee's fitness goals and playing style

Ace Indian table tennis player Sutirtha Mukherjee will be making her maiden appearance at the Olympics in Tokyo 2020.
By Samrat Chakraborty

To ensure a long-career and excel at the highest level, like the Olympics, fitness is of utmost importance. And Sutirtha Mukherjee, one of India's representatives in Table Tennis, has been working on it, consistently, since March last year.

Mukherjee was constantly in touch with her fitness trainer during the lockdown last year, when restrictions were imposed around the country due to Covid-19, to take tips and work on herself.

She also considered the lockdown a blessing in disguise as she could solely focus on her fitness rather than spending time travelling to practice her game. Her coach, Arjuna awardee Soumyadeep Roy, also helped her improve fitness.

Moreover, there was a time when Mukherjee would undergo two 90 minutes training sessions every day, before turning to the table for practice. But ahead of the Olympics, the time allotted for fitness training has increased, and she is more focused on achieving a specific goal.

Sutirtha Mukherjee in action
Picture by Vaqaas Mansuri

Decoding Mukherjee's playing style

Mukherjee first rose to fame when she went on to become India No.1 after clinching the Nationals in 2016. She was also a mainstay in the Indian women's table tennis which went on to clinch a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Gold Coast.

Her consistency helped her remarkably climb up the rankings as she rose from the 502nd spot in 2019 to breaking into the top 100 in 2021. Her fellow paddlers look at her as an aggressive brand of player who likes to stand closer to the table.

“She plays her shots early, so that reduces the reaction time an opponent has,” Beijing 2008 Olympian Neha Aggarwal told Indian Express.

Moreover, her quick hands, studded with good reflexes, forces her opponents to play the game she wants to play.

Interestingly, she has a short pimpled rubber on her forehand, which could help her change the speed or spin the return shot. But Mukherjee is still learning the art of using it to her aid.

“I’ve started to switch it (pimpled rubber on one side of her bat and a flat rubber on the other) mid-rally to add variations,” she said.

It will, however, be a test of her fitness and skills at Tokyo 2020 apart from being a learning curve for the 25-year-old paddler.

When does Sutirtha Mukherjee's Tokyo 2020 campaign start?

Mukherjee's campaign in the women's singles will start on Saturday, July 24, against 15th-seeded Swede Linda Bergstroem.