by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer
Notably Massimo Costantini is now back in India for a second stint as the national coach; he left in 2010 and most recently returned in 2016.
Moreover, he has enjoyed success on his return. Notably at the recent Commonwealth Games, he guided India to gold in the Men’s Team and Women’s Team events, as well as Manika Batra to the Women’s Singles title
He explained his feelings with regards to the Commonwealth Games and his coaching philosophy.
“The feeling was that when I left in 2010, I felt a sort of unfinished business. I was doing well when we won medals at the Commonwealth Games and Sharath Achanta had won on the World Tour. I felt a sort of not completing my job.
I went to the United States for six years where I learned a lot. I came back in 2016 with double motivation and good support from a government.
Table tennis is a skill game and I cannot add skills when the player is not able to perform skills. So I had to follow the players who have some skills to improve the skills already there. I made the skills better and better. I reversed the way many coaches work by fixing the problems of the players. I forgot the problems and focused on the strength of the players and make it better.
If I have a skill that performs at 80 percent, I bring it to 100 percent. The players were very comfortable and happy because when you work on the weaknesses, the players are unhappy but when you work on skills they are very happy and you get the most from them. This was the basic work I did.
At the Commonwealth Games, I was extremely happy for them because I know the work and how much dedication that was behind those medals. Winning seven to eight medals in an event that was a dream.
India has the potential to win medals in each event not only in one event, the men’s category, as in the past. Now we have a chance to get medals in teams, women’s doubles and all the events in which we never perform; it was a big achievement for India this time.
Initially things were not going well for Manika Batra because she has a special game. She uses pimples and this makes her game complicated for most opponents. To find the proper mechanism to perform her skills and combine in the game according to her opponent’s skills took time. In 2017, she had ups and down; from this year, she started performing well in various tournaments. She reached the peak at the Commonwealth Games.
When you improve individuals, you improve the general level because the top players they are role models for upcoming players. I know a lot of players want to emulate Manika Batra and this kind of feeling will help the team to perform better as it will rub off on other players. When you set a target, you go up and exceed the set target..
My greatest moments were when Manika Batra won the Women’s Singles and it was indeed an amazing moment. Also when the Women’s Team won the final against Singapore particularly the doubles victory was a great moment for me.” Massimo Costantini
In Halmstad, the Indian men and women teams have been able to retain their places in the Championship Division with the hope of finishing in an creditable position in Sweden.
However the next big challenge for the Indian team is the Asian Games to be held in Jakarta in late August and early September.