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Sharrat Kemal says I definitely got pressure on Ma Long

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39-year-old Charath Kamal has not ruled out a return to the Olympics in 2024. But even if he doesn’t, the distinguished Indian will remember the Swansong Olympics as one of his best performances ever. It wasn’t enough to quit the legendary Ma Long in the third round in Tokyo, but that doesn’t take anything away from the brilliant fight the Chennai rower had, especially in the first three matches.

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Drawn 1-1 and the third match in the tiebreak, Ma Long was feeling so pressured that he chose to take a timeout with a match point in his cat. Even the Chinese master knew that if he didn’t triumph this game, things could be really tough against the inspiring Sharath who had been shooting from the start.

The one minute burst really proved crucial as the Chinese took the next point to triumph the match and that in a way, kept the match away from Sharath. Despite this, the Indian tried to preserve the “Dragon” away, but Ma Long did very well, winning the next two games to finish 11-8, 8-11, 13-11, 11-4, 11-4.

“I definitely had him under pressure in the first three matches. It was just a matter of finishing the third match. Had I done that – who knows – things could have been distinct. But once I lost that (match), the momentum quickly turned on his side and it didn’t take lengthy. A lengthy time for him to finish things up,” Sharath told TOI following the competition. The intense battle between the players quickly turned a little to one side as Long opened a 6-0 lead in the fourth game but the Indian didn’t throw in the towel. Sharath played some distinguished shots even in the fifth inning, but Long brought all his class and composure to the table to fend off the threat.

No wonder Sharat felt this was one of his best performances of his two-decade career. “I gave everything I had in this confrontation and in the tournament. Yes, the results were not in my favour, but I am happy. This must be my best performance ever in the Olympics,” said Charath, who participated in his fourth Olympics.

The hype is that this was Charath’s final match at the Olympics, but there is a steely insistence on India’s No.1 mentality that he may be ready to scrap in the coming days. “I’m at my best at the moment and I’m at a pleasing level… It’s all about staying motivated and having specific goals. My next goal will be to do well in the Asian Games and the Asian Games,” said Sharat, who will be participating in the Asian Championships in Doha in September. Commonwealth in 2022.

Is the 2024 Olympics a realistic possibility given the fact that he will turn 42? “I don’t know… but yes, it’s a pleasing goal. I get a lot of messages asking me to preserve playing. There will be a lot of factors – shape and fitness – and at this point I’m not looking much forward,” Sharat said.


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