For Sharath Kamal Achanta, age is just a number. He scripted history by winning four medals -including three gold medals- at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games. On Monday, he won the men’s singles finals, defeating England’s Liam Pitchford.
In the 2022 CWG games, Kamal won gold medals in the mixed doubles event with Sreeja Akula and the men’s team event. He also won a silver with G Sathiyan in the men’s double event.
Kamal will be the flag-bearer for India in the closing ceremony with boxer Nikhat Zareen.
Sharath Kamal Achanta – India’s star paddler from Tamil Nadu
Kamal was born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, on July 12, 1982. Chennai is known for producing many national champions. Kamal was introduced to the game by his father, Srinivasa Rao and uncle Muralidhar Rao who had played the game earlier and later became coaches.
Kamal started playing the game when he was just four years old. At 15, he chose to focus on his game and turn professional. However, he suffered because of his lack of consistency.
At 20, Kamal was called to the training camp of the Indian national team ahead of the 2002 CWG. The national camp conditioned Kamal well, which was reflected in his reaching the finals of the 2002 national championships. Despite losing the finals, Kamal was drafted into the national team.
In 2003, he won his first national championship. He would later go on to win ten national titles in total, five of them consecutively. In 2004, his career reached a turning point when he qualified for the 2004 Athens Olympics.
He was conferred with the Arjuna Award in the same year. In 2006, the unstoppable Kamal won his maiden single’s CWG gold at Melbourne. Another gold medal came his way when the men’s team won a gold medal at the same event.
There was no looking back for Kamal now. He went to Sweden to train and get international exposure. He even played in Germany’s Bundesliga, which trained him for more significant moments he was yet to see.
In the same year, Kamal became the first Indian table tennis player to win an ITTF Pro Tour title, winning the Egypt Open.
In the 2010 CWG in New Delhi, Kamal won two gold medals. One in the men’s singles category and the other in the men’s doubles event.
From 2010 to 2016, Kamal had a subdued performance. But known for his endurance, Kamal soon overcame it and qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
But the 2018 Gold Coast CWG brought out the best in Kamal. He won a medal in every event he played, winning one gold, one silver and two bronze medals. He also won two bronze medals at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games.
In 2019, he rose to his career-best ranking of world number 30. In 2020, he won his second international title at Oman Open.
In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Kamal went down playing China’s Ma Long, arguably the best table tennis player to have played the sport. Long went on to win the gold medal at the tournament.
AT 40, Kamal showed grit and patience throughout his career, culminating in a stellar performance at Birmingham in 2022. He became the best performing Indian player at the CWG games.
However, Indians still have high expectations for him. They hope Kamal has saved his best for the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics.