Manika Batra has been one of the biggest breakthrough stars of the year for India. From four Commonwealth Games medals to one at Asian Games, Manika made sure that India had someone other than Achanta Sharath Kamal on the table tennis map in the world. Of course, there was Sathiyan Gnanasekaran as well who stormed into the table tennis scene this year but Manika’s big performances in Gold Coast made her the one star Indian table tennis was looking for.
Currently ranked 52 in the world according to ITTF rankings, Manika Batra and Indian men’s team performance at the Asian Games has now risen hopes of an Olympic medal in table tennis and Manika has already begun her preparations.
“Everyone dreams about Olympic gold, so do I. But I will move step by step. I have to improve my rankings in the forthcoming international tournaments next year. I will try to position myself under top 30 so that I can qualify for Olympics directly,” Manika told news agency ANI.
As for her Olympic preparations, Manika said that she was working on her fitness and was trying to add techniques and shots in her repetoire so as she stay in the game and contention for medals.
“After the Asian Games I have already started my training for the Olympics and it is going really well. I think overseas players now know about my game so I will have to change my playing style. I want to do something different and for that, I am training. I am working on my fitness because I have to defeat other Asians, so I have to be very quick. I am working hard for 2019,” Manika said.
Manika recently won the ‘Breakthrough Table Tennis Star’ award at the prestigious International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Star Awards in Incheon, South Korea and was extremely honoured to have received the recognition.
“I am really honoured and happy to have received the award. I feel, 2018 has been the best year of my career so far and I am happy for what I have achieved,” Manika had said at the ceremony.
Even then Manika had thanked the government, Table Tennis Federations of India (TTFI) and her coaches for their support and she once again lauded the government for their good work in the field of sports.
“The government is providing brilliant support to every player including those who cannot afford. It motivates players as well to do better. In India, the game transformed after Commonwealth Games. It didn’t happen only from our side but also from the government’s side. Especially our Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who has been a sportsperson. So he knows what an athlete needs,” Manika said.
At the Commonwealth Games in April this year, Manika guided India to their first-ever gold medal in the Women’s Team event and then went on to win a first gold in women’s singles category. She even bagged a silver with Mouma Das in women’s doubles and a bronze with Gnanasekaran in the mixed doubles category.
The fact that Manika, world No.58 at that time, defeated world No.4 Tianwei Feng in the team event before beating world No.23 Yu Mengyu in the second singles was a sensational achievement for India and that led to a brilliant gold medal.
However, Manika came back in the singles department to beat Feng once more in the semi-finals and thrashed Yu in the final to win the second gold medal, proving that her previous victories against them were not by fluke.
At the Asian Games, Manika could not replicate her CWG form in the singles against much tougher opponents from China, Japan and Korea but along with Achanta Sharath Kamal, she bagged a mixed doubles bronze to make another first for the country in the sport.
When asked about her achievements, Manika cheerfully said: “The year 2018 has been very important for me. I won many tournaments this year. It all started with the nationals and zone level. After that, in the Commonwealth Games I bagged two gold medals, which no one had ever won in the history of table tennis. We also beat Singapore in the team event, which never happened before.”