Manika Batra, the poster girl of Indian table tennis, is unable to go through her training sessions. Since the time lockdown began, the Delhi girl, who has now made Pune her training base, is unable to hit a single ball.
By her own admission, the initial days were frustrating. However, she has now learnt to take it in her stride and focus on her fitness. In the absence of any TT table at home, she walks down to the ground floor of her society and practices her stance in front of a stationary car (see picture). In addition, she does a lot of physical training.
In times of COVID-19, many top Indian athletes have evolved in their own small way. In an exclusive chat with Mail Today, Manika, who shot to fame at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, shares her thoughts.
How much has the lockdown affected the table tennis players in India?
I am sure it has affected the preparation of many players who don’t have a TT table at home. Also it has affected the ones who must have planned to train abroad. I also feel it has broken the rhythm in which the effort was going with the quality of the Olympic bound athletes plus the juniors who have been doing really well recently.
Quality matters at the highest level and small important things when stacked up and followed with a discipline (make a difference) be it quality or be it technical or physical or the mental preparations combined with it.
Your thoughts on time spent during this period?
Well, I don’t know what to say on this. To be honest, the initial 21 days I felt was already too big a gap and I did get stressed. As the days went by, acceptance sunk in and I got used to it mentally. It (stress) has increased again so, well, keeping fit physically with all that (equipment) is available and eating healthy so as to not put on weight and doing meditation and video analysis is what I’m putting my stress into rather than being depressed. I am missing the whole thing of the efforts I love to take on the (TT) table.
How do you see the future and the Tokyo Olympics in 2021?
I feel that life has to go on and I believe that the human tendency is to grow, compete, love, conquer, mingle and explore. Sport goes very much hand in hand with it, is my opinion. If you are telling me to guess, I will wishfully guess that it will all happen with a different set of restrictions! On the other side, I’m afraid that there is pause on many competitions.
I would again say life should go on! And humanity should win by doing everything that is healthy and enriching. Nothing like sport for a sportsman.
Will things be the same again?
I don’t think anything will be same soon, be it sport or life. And speaking about TT, I feel the travel then mixing with various people would put some thought in each person’s mind, I guess. But I am also sure there will be a way out which we all will follow. I hope that life goes on, about the ball being touched and other details. I am sure a decision will be taken about it after proper study and research.
Personally, yes, it will be a concern I guess not only for me but for each one involved. Time only is the answer right now until anything new comes up or is advocated by proper authorities after in-depth research and study.
Have you faced a situation like this before?
No, I haven’t thankfully. And I hope I never would have to face it or my co-players in TT, or anyone around the world.
Your message to sports fans in India?
My message to them is work out, talk to the people whom they must not have talked to otherwise. Very important, gather a lot of knowledge without any extra load on the mind just by going through biographies of great players or anyone from other fields. Leaders, businessmen, artists, social workers , many things we see give us the power, learn different techniques of body and mind. The one thing I am still not doing properly is cooking (Haha), rest all I did learn in this lockdown and would continue too.
Do not get demoralised, and keep up hope, that will be the first success story. Long live humanity.