Surat, Sept.4: The day when Janmasthami was celebrated across the country with exhuberance, Gujarat State Table Tennis Association had one more reason to rejoice. Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar, two paddlers, returned home with bronze medal at the Asian Games 2018 held in Jakarta. Both the Surtis were given heroic reception at the Surat Airport.
Harmeet and Manav were part of India team that put its best foot forward to win maiden medal in the sport at Asian Games. It is among 30 bronze medals India won at Jakarta Asiad. From Gujarat point of view, it was second bronze, as Ankita Raina had won in individual tennis event. Besides Sarita Gayakwad’s gold in 4x400m women’s relay.
Sports Authority of Gujarat and Gujarat State Table Tennis Association officials led by honorary secretary Haresh Sangtani along with treasurer Amit Choksi and senior vice-president Pramod Choudhary welcomed the star paddlers at the Surat Airport. Both, Harmeet and Manav are beneficiaries of Sports Authority of Gujarat’s Shaktidoot Scheme.
Harmeet, who was part of Indian team that won Commonwealth Games 2018 gold medal winning India team, termed the podium finish in Jakarta different and special. “This is a special feeling. It’s different from Commonwealth TT gold. Asian Games are at par with World Championship, where world power houses like China, Japan, Korea are in fray. Never imagined, I could be on podium in Asian Games,” elated Harmeet said.
The win has boosted the morale of Indian men’s Table Tennis team, which has set Tokyo Olympics podium as the target. India went down to Republic of Korea in semifinals, but had assured themselves a medal when the team led by seasoned A Sharath Kamal overcame Japan in the quarterfinals.
“We defeated Japan on the way to podium, and it is a big achievement. This medal, now, has certainly encouraged us to dream of winning an Olympic medal. We have skills and ability. Continous support of the authorities and our hard work should fetch us an Olympic medal,” said Harmeet, while acknowleding the support of state and central governments, TTFI and GSTTA during the successful journey.
Meanwhile, Manav was the youngest in the five-member team, which also had G Sathiyan and A Amalraj. And it was couple of firsts for him. It was not only his first Asian Games, but also it was the first time the junior paddler made it to the Men’s team. The teenager described the Jakarta sojourn as an ideal preparation ahead of his Youth Olympics in Argentina next month.
“It was a great moment as two Gujaratis were part of the bronze medal winning team. Personally, it was a learning experience for me. I learnt how to handle the pressure and stay calm, especially in dying moments of a match when at times I tend err by hurrying up and end on a losing side. I am sure it will come handy when I will compete in Youth Olympics,” said Manav, who became first Indian to be ranked World Junior No.1 earlier this year.