India Table Tennis teams poise for breakthrough at Paris Olympics: Costantini

Bengaluru, July 8 (FN Agency) Italian coach Massimo Costantini, at the helm of the Indian table tennis team, is confident that India could be the dark horse at the Paris Olympics. Thanks to their impressive performances over the past year, even traditional powerhouses are wary of facing India in the early rounds. The Paris Olympics, scheduled from July 26 to August 11, could see India making significant strides in both team and individual events. For the first time in Olympic history, India has qualified for both the men’s and women’s team events. Costantini, who has been instrumental in this achievement, is in his third stint with the Indian national team. Having first arrived in India in 2009, the 66-year-old has overseen a remarkable rise in the country’s table tennis fortunes. Under his guidance, India secured a record eight medals, including three golds, at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and two bronze medals at the 2018 Asian Games. “Qualifying for the team events is already an achievement because only 16 teams from around the world compete at the Olympics. It’s tough to predict a medal, but I can confidently say that we can spring a big surprise.

The past six months have shown that even teams like China are cautious about playing India early in the competition,” Costantini remarked in an interview with Ultimate Table Tennis. Earlier this year, the Indian women’s team nearly toppled China at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Busan. Ayhika Mukherjee and Sreeja Akula both managed to defeat the World No. 1 and World No. 2 players, respectively, in a narrow 2-3 loss. Following this, Sreeja became the first Indian singles player to win a WTT Contender title in Lagos, while stars like Manika Batra and veteran Achanta Sharath have also hit peak form. Costantini’s rapport with the Indian squad and his deep involvement in their development have been crucial. He believes that the inception of Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) has been a game-changer. “UTT has given Indian players a platform to gain invaluable experience. The blend of international and Indian coaches, coupled with youth development programs, has prepared our players to compete against the best in the world,” he stated.

Discussing the team’s preparations for the Paris Olympics, Costantini revealed that he is currently assessing player performance levels and working on doubles combinations for the team championships. As the Indian contingent competes in various WTT events globally, their goal is to improve their rankings to avoid facing top-tier countries before the quarter-finals. “Our aim is to achieve good results in these events to boost our rankings, as these will be updated before the Games and will influence the draw,” he explained. Currently, the Indian men’s team is ranked 14th globally, while the women’s team holds the 11th spot. Knowing their opponents well in advance will be advantageous for the Indian team, allowing them to prepare meticulously and tactically bridge the gap with the top teams. “The gap between us and the leading teams is not that big. With advance knowledge of our opponents and thorough data analysis, we can prepare effectively to close that gap,” Costantini added. Indian table tennis fans are optimistic that the team will not only close the gap but also make history in Paris. Following the Olympics, fans can look forward to more thrilling table tennis action at the upcoming Ultimate Table Tennis 2024.