Table tennis player Harmeet Desai eyeing Olympics debut

Desai has a slim chance of making it to Tokyo next year but will give it all to ensure he plays the Games in 2024.

By Rahul Venkat

Reigning national table tennis champion Harmeet Desai may miss his maiden Olympics at Tokyo next year but that has not dulled his motivation.

Desai currently sits 72nd on the Olympic rankings, way behind India’s top two of Achanta Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, who are ranked 31st and 32nd respectively.

As per the Olympic qualification rules, only two players from any country are eligible to play in the singles events. With not many tournaments left to gain ranking points, Harmeet Desai’s chances currently look relatively slim - but the paddler is not giving up all hope.

“We have a strong team, so it will be very difficult for me to get ahead of the top two and Sharath and Sathiyan are really strong players,” Harmeet Desai told fellow Indian table tennis player Mudit Dani on his talk show ‘In the Sportlight’.

“It would have been much better for me if I could have got a chance to play more international tournaments in this period because I didn't have the pressure of defending any of the points, I only had the chance to gain points,” Desai rued.

“Even though it will be difficult for me to qualify, I still hope to make it. And if not this time, I will work harder for 2024.”

The 27-year-old Desai had reached the semi-finals of the Oman Open in March, where compatriot Sharath Kamal won the title. It was the final event before the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) decided to halt the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The season resumed on November 8 with the ITTF Women’s World Cup in China, with the Men’s World Cup set to begin on November 13.

The break in play came at an inopportune moment for Harmeet Desai, who only returned to action in the French League for his club Roanne LLTT in October, winning two matches.

However, Desai was then forced to shift his training base to Germany as his next opponent tested COVID-positive.

The Indian table tennis player is currently training with personal coach Fu Yong and will be seen in action for Roanne LLTT next week.