Table tennis star Manika Batra has been riding a wave of success. After creating a buzz around her abilities as a player over the years, especially during the 2016 South Asian Games, she touched new heights during the recently-concluded Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, where the 23-year-old's efforts played an instrumental part in India attaining their richest medal haul in table-tennis at the event.
Batra carried his Midas Touch over to the recently-concluded Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT), in which she was part of the title-winning Dabang Smashers team. Firstpost caught up with the talented paddler during the New Delhi leg of the event. Following are the excerpts from the freewheeling chat:
Firstpost (FP): What is it like playing in front of your home crowd? Is it a boost?
Manika Batra (MB): When I was in Pune, I was waiting to come to Delhi. Yes, I’m excited that so many people will come and support and cheer for my team. So, it’s amazing that you play in front of your hometown.
When you were getting into the sport, who were some of your icons and role models growing up?
My role model is always my mom. In sporting terms, we have Sharath Kamal, so I followed him a lot. He guides me in a right way, so he’s my role model.
If you weren’t a professional table-tennis player, what would you be?
I’ve never thought like that, but if not a table tennis player, I think tennis. I love to watch tennis, so tennis player.
I read somewhere that you at one stage were being given offers for modelling. How did you react to it?
Obviously, my aim right from an early age was to win a medal in table tennis, and to pursue it on the longer run. I didn’t have any regrets over rejecting the offers, and didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. My aim had always been table tennis, so I’m happy that I chose this sport over that.
And how did you get into this sport? Was it through friends?
Not friends. I started playing at the age of four. My sister and brother used to play, and I started playing after watching them.
Who’s the player you think you have the best understanding with? Whether in the Dabang Smashers in the UTT, or while playing for India.
As far as the Dabang Smashers is concerned, we all bond with each other very well. We all get along very well because we’re all young and energetic.
As far as international tournaments are concerned, we stay together there as well, but I have my doubles partner Mouma Das. I usually spend more time with her.
Talking about the Commonwealth Games, it was a huge moment for us without a doubt. What was going through your mind after beating Singapore, when you saw the Tri-colour being hoisted on top and the national anthem being played? Also, what were some of the factors behind India’s success in TT?
I think everyone dreams of that moment, and it was my dream as well to win a medal on such a grand stage. I used to dream of it, and worked hard for the same as there are so many quality teams that participate at the Commonwealth Games, such as the undefeated Singapore. Defeating Singapore was a huge thing, both in the team event as well as in singles.
So, I think it’s a proud moment for me, and it was also a proud moment for all those who supported me — whether my coach, family, federation, government — that someone brought a medal, that too in table tennis, because rarely did India win so many medals in this sport in the past. So the hoisting of the flag and the national anthem being played out makes for a great feeling, one that would make anyone emotional. So I think it was a great feeling.
In the last Commonwealth as well in 2014, when Singapore won and their flag was being hoisted above the others, I had mentally decided at that point of time that I would make my flag go up (in the next edition of the Games).
And we certainly hope that our flag will be fluttering high at Tokyo as well.
Yes, I will try my best.
Aside from the achievements in your life, do you have any regrets?
No. Never. Have never regretted in my life. Whatever decisions I’ve made till date, I feel were right, so never had any regret of any sort.
Moving off the court, how do you unwind after a gruelling match or a tournament?
I go for a movie with my mom, or I go for shopping. So that’s what I normally do when I’m in my relax mode.
Fitness is a massive rage these days, especially amongst sportspersons. How important, according to you, is the role of diet in a table tennis player’s life? And how often do you get to have cheat meals?
Diet is important, not just in every sport, but also in regular life. I follow a diet, and have different charts prepared by a dietician. And as far as cheat meals are concerned, I can have only one meal. Not throughout the day, but just one meal.
Let’s start the rapid fire round. The questions will be related to your Dabang Smashers teammates only. Tell me the first name that comes to your mind when I use the following traits:
The one with the most annoying habits?
The party animal?
Social media addict?
Biggest selfie addict?
MB: Adriana and Sakura.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Jul 28, 2018 20:03:47 IST