Indian paddlers leave for Hong Kong Olympic qualifiers

New Delhi: Ace paddlers Achanta Sharath Kamal and Poulumi Ghatak will look to secure a berth in the London Olympics when they compete in the Asian Olympic Table Tennis Qualification tournament to be held in Hong Kong from April 19-22.

The six-member Indian contingent will have three men - 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sharath, newly-crowned national champion Anthony Amalraj and Soumyajit Ghosh - and three women - reigning national champion Ghatak, Shamini Kumaresan and young Ankita Das.

The Indian paddlers along with Polish coach Leszek Kucharski and national coach Bhawani Mukjerjee will leave tonight for the four-day event.

Seven slots in each of the men and women`s sections will be up for grabs at the qualifiers. The Indian squad will be fighting to grab a slot each in the two sections from among 23 men and 21 women participants from 14 countries.

Sharath is seeded sixth at the qualifiers, while Amalraj is seeded ninth. As for women`s team, Ankita Das is seeded 12th, followed by K Shamini at 13.

India can expect a maximum of two spots, one each in both the sections.

"I am confident of the boys and girls to do the job. We should earn at least one slot here, if not two. If we manage only one in either section, we will have a go at the Doha, which is the last qualification event, in the other category," said Mukherjee.

"You can see from the seedings of our players, all based on their current world rankings. Ours is an experienced and exuberant lot and am confident they will do the job diligently," he added.

Among the contenders for the London berths include world No 1 Ma Long in men`s category and world No 5 Guo Yue in the women`s section.


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