Selecting the same three players who had beaten Nigeria in the men’s team final four years ago in Gold Coast, on the afternoon of Tuesday 3rd August, at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, India repeated the feat.
Once again the combination of Harmeet Desai, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Sharath Kamal Achanta reserved the top step of the podium.
On the east coast of Australia, it had been a 3-0 success when facing the trio comprising Bode Abiodun, Olajide Omotayo and Segun Toriola. In the English midlands it was only marginally more exacting; a 3-1 success was the outcome in opposition to the young Singaporean outfit comprising Clarence Chew, Izaac Quek Yong and Pang Yew En Koen.
For me 2018 was easier because Nigeria’s Segun Toriola was injured in the final and he used to play two matches in a team match; this really reduced the pressure on us in the final. Also, the schedule was so tight, but here in Birmingham, it was well spread. I think tournament wise, 2018 was quite difficult for us because we had a younger team but now, we have Sathiyan along with me, he is doing fantastic and the number three player, Harmeet has also stepped up his game.” Sharath Kamal Achanta
The player to cause the dent in India’s otherwise perfect tournament record was Clarence Chew, notably not selected in the 3-0 group stage defeat; Ethan Poh Shao Feng being preferred.
In the final, Clarence Chew accounted for Sharath Kamal Achanta (11-7, 12-14, 11-3, 11-9) after Harmeet Desai and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran had combined to claim the doubles at the expense of Izaac Quek Yong and Pang Yew En Koen (13-11, 11-7, 11-5).
Matters level, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran overcame Pang Yew En Koen (12-10, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4) before Harmeet Desai accounted for Clarence Chew (11-8, 11-5, 11-6) to seal the top prize.
Notably for India it was the third time when they had secured the title, in addition they won in 2006 in Melbourne, a tournament dear to the heart of Sharath Kamal Achanta. Later he won the men’s singles.
“My first Commonwealth Games was in 2006 when we won the first gold medal, everybody was surprised but now it has come to stay with us.” Sharath Kamal Achanta
Success in Birmingham and still counting Sharath Kamal Achanta has now five Commonwealth Games gold medals to his credit; in addition to Melbourne and Gold Coast, he won men’s doubles gold partnering Subhajit Saha in 2010 in New Delhi.
“It was very important to retain the title because with this medal, we will get our government budget. The more medals we win, the more we can ask for funding for the sport in India; this will help us and not just us the senior players but junior ones to attend more tournaments and gain exposure. So, it is very important for us. It is quite difficult for us to win medals at the Olympic Games because the gap is still quite high, but at the Commonwealth Games, we have got to such a stage to win medals.” Sharath Kamal Achanta
Also, men’s team bronze in 2006 can be added to the Achanta medal haul, as can men’s doubles silver in 2014 partnering Amalraj Anthony, as well as in 2018 men’s singles bronze and men’s doubles silver alongside Sathiyan Gnanasekaran.
Poignant for Sharath Kamal Achanta, it was also poignant for Raman Subramanian, the coach on duty and most significantly the man who has guided the fortunes of Sathiyan Gnanasekaran; he was a member of India’s bronze medal winning team in 2002 in Manchester, the first occasion when table tennis was held at a Commonwealth Games.
Meanwhile, for Singapore, it was a repeat of Melbourne when beaten by India in the final; earlier in 2002 they had been bronze medallists, in both 2010 and 2014 gold medallists.
Gold for India as in Gold Coast, once again it was bronze for England; the outfit formed by Paul Drinkhall, Tom Jarvis and Liam Pitchford recorded a 3-0 win in opposition to Nigeria’s Bode Abiodun, Quadri Aruna and Olajide Omotayo to claim the third step of the podium.
“It was very important today, we would have been very disappointed in a home Games not to get a medal. We wanted to win gold but Singapore played a very good match in the semi-final. We turned it round today and managed to get the bronze medal. We came into the bronze medal match with the semi-final disappointment on our minds. We realised we must do something and as a team we managed to do that, a very good performance today.” Paul Drinkhall
Play in the individual events now begins, the men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles event commence play on Wednesday 4th August followed by the para competition.