The preparation of the Olympic-bound Indian table tennis contingent seems to be going nowhere with leading players G Sathiyan and Manika Batra confirming their unavailability for the proposed training camp in Sonepat from June 20. (More Sports News)
With the coronavirus-induced restrictions already affecting the players' preparations for the July-August Tokyo Games, top players preferring to work with their individual coaches is also not helping the team's cause.
Amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the four Tokyo-bound players -- Sharath Kamal, Sathiyan, Manika and Sutirtha Mukherjee -- have been restricted to individual training since qualifying in March.
After not getting his Denmark visa for training, Sharath is looking forward to the national camp in Sonepat but his preparations would be incomplete if he is not able to train with mixed doubles partner Manika.
India's best shot at an Olympic medal is in the mixed doubles category with the players not expected to go deep into the singles draw.
Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) advisor MP Singh said the federation is waiting for SAI's approval for the camp but it can't force the players to attend it.
"The preparations have not been ideal but you could not help it amid the pandemic. We are now awaiting SAI's approval for the 15-day camp. It should come in a day or two," Singh told PTI.
"I have been informed by the TTFI office that Manika wants to continue training in Pune with her coach. If more top players are not willing to come, then we will need to see if we should have the camp at all or not as we would want the entire team to train under one roof."
Sathiyan too confirmed to PTI that he would rather train in Chennai at this juncture.
"My coach (S Raman) is here and I have a good sparring partner in Anirban Ghosh. Also, there is a risk in travelling at the moment. So, I would prefer staying put and prepare for the Olympics.
"The preparations have not been ideal due to COVID but we need to make the best use of whatever time we have. I am comfortable training in Chennai," said Sathiyan, who will be competing in his maiden Olympics.
The TTFI has planned a camp for 16 people including players and support staff.
"A total of 12 players and four support staff will be part of the camp. The players have trained in DPS Sonepat earlier also so they are comfortable with the facility. Sharath is happy to come. Let's see about others," Singh said.
Other India players including Archana Kamath, Sanil Shetty and Manav Thakkar, who have not qualified for the games, are also expected in Sonepat.
"The players will undergo RT-PCR tests upon arrival on June 17 and when the camp begins from June 20, there will undergo a rapid antigen test daily," said Singh.
Sharath, who is set to compete in his fourth Olympics, could not get the visa to train in Denmark and is, therefore, looking forward to much-needed practice in a team environment.
He and Sathiyan will be competing in singles but the veteran's focus is on mixed doubles with Manika.
They won a surprise bronze at the 2018 Asian Games.
"Manika and I focused on our movement before and during the qualifiers. Now we need to get better at playing situations in a match. The preparations have been far from ideal (due to COVID). I hope we get some time to train together before we reach Tokyo," said Sharath.