New Delhi, May 4 (IANS) The Commonwealth Championships is the only table tennis arena where India internationally enjoys the reputation of a champion nation. They invariably return with a bag full of medals and it should not be any different in the 19th edition of the tournament, beginning here Sunday.
India, considered also-rans at the world stage, has won six gold, eight silver and 17 bronze medals since the 1994 championships in Hyderabad, though the event was introduced way back in 1971.
The event is slotted to be biennial, but it was not organised in 2011. Anyway, it has never been a popular event with most countries preferring to give it a miss since they all take part in the Commonwealth Games.
No wonder, two-time champion Gao Ning of Singapore has decided to skip the tournament, perhaps, to prepare for the Paris World Championships, beginning May 13.
"Normally, the International Table Tennis Federation schedules Commonwealth Championships before the worlds. Some countries cant afford to attend both events and end up going for the Worlds. Location is another reason for drop in participation. Europe draws more players, Dhanraj Choudhary, secretary general at Table Tennis Federation of India, told IANS.
Paddlers from 14 countries will compete in the mens category and the womens section will see players from 13 nations.
Indian is seeded second in mens team event behind Singapore while women are seeded third below Singapore and England.
Sharath Kamal, despite his inconsistent form, will be expected to win maximum medals for the host nation. He won Indias first singles gold in 2004 edition and played a crucial role in the team championship triumph.
He settled for a silver at the 2009 Glasgow edition but made up for the loss against Gao Ning by winning the doubles title with Subhajit Saha. Both of them are also the reigning Commonwealth Games champions.
It is an important tournament for me. A good performance here will give me a big boost ahead of the worlds and Asian Championships. Singapore will be tough but we have a good team too, said Sharath while referring to the team comprising Soumyajit Ghosh, Anthony Amalraj, Harmeet Desai and Sanil Shetty.
For the women, it will be about beating England to finish second in the team event. Singapore look unbeatable with world no.4 Fiang Tianwei in their ranks.
The individual and team events have two league stages followed by the knock-out rounds while the doubles will be a straight knockout.