Olympic qualifying: Men paddlers top groups, Ankita in second stage

New Delhi, April 19: All the three Indian men paddlers topped their groups to move a step closer and enter stage two of the Asian Olympic Qualification Table Tennis Tournament in Hong Kong Thursday afternoon.

But from among the women, Ankita Das alone has confirmed her second stage spot, having won two matches in the five-player group, according to information received here.

Both Poulomi Ghatak and K. Shamini have won and lost a match each in their respective groups and the fate of these players hinges on the late night matches Thursday.

With top four players in each of the three groups going through to the second stage, Poulomi and Shamini are expected to make the grade.

Achanta Sharath Kamal, expectedly topped group D, beating all three rivals but what came as a pleasant surprise was the way both A.Amal Raj and Soumyajit Ghosh emulating their senior pro to attain the top perch in groups E and F.

Sharath had a bit of struggle against his North Korean opponent Kim Song Nam whom the Indian subdued 4-2 (11-6, 12-10, 10-12, 11-6, 9-11, 11-3). Later he blanked out both Alinjawi Jassem of UAE and Rodel Valle of the Philippines for a similar margin of 4-0.

Similarly, Amal Raj had a tough opening match against the higher-ranked North Korean Kim Hyok Bong which the Indian won 4-3 (11-8, 11-7, 12-14, 11-5,9-11, 6-11, 12-10). This gave the necessary confidence as Amal Raj defeated both Nikom Wongsiri of Thailand 4-0 and Isaias Seronio of the Philippines 4-0.

As for Ghosh, he was playing the top-ranked Wu Chi-Chi from Taipei and the Indian matching stroke for stroke defeated him 4-1 (11-9, 11-8, 8-11, 12-10, 11-8. He also beat Iranian Alamian Nima, who made waves recently at the Macau Asian meet, 4-0 and later UAE’s Hassan Rashed for the same score-line.

Ankita Das downed both Malaysian NG Sock Khim 4-3 (9-11, 4-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-8, 10-12, 11-9) and Vietnam’s Mai Hoang My Tarang 4-3 (10-12, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7, 14-12, 14-16, 11-6). She has three more matches to go but Akita has ensured her second stage berth.

National coach Bhawani Mukherjee admitted the second stage matches will be much tougher.

“But our boys and girls are geared up to win Olympic spots with seven berths for the London Games in each section on offer here. I am really hopeful, particularly the way both Ghosh and Amal Raj played today to top their groups,” he added.

IANS