Experienced Ahanta Sharat Kamal on Thursday became the first Indian rower to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after a dominant victory over Pakistan’s Mohamed Ramees at the Doha Asian Qualifiers.
The veteran Indian defeated Ramez 11-4, 11-1, 11-5, 11-4 in just over 22 minutes in the second match of the men’s singles round in the South Asian group.
Kamal had lost his opening game 9-11, 13-15, 11-5, 11-7, 12-10, 9-11, 8-11 to his compatriot Gnansekaran Satian. (EXCEPTIONAL | Sharat Kamal looks at Olympic glory before calling it a day)
The victory over Rameez secured at least a second place for Kamal and that was enough to secure a place in the delayed games, which were to start in July.
One quota is awarded to the highest ranked second ranked player in the event. Sharat, who is the highest ranked player in the group, secured a place under the Asian quota.
This will be Kamal’s fourth appearance at the Olympics.
“It was a good match against Satian, but I made a few mistakes and he took advantage of them to win the match. I was a little nervous before playing against Ramees, as I had never faced him before.
“But after the first few games, I was confident that my strategy was working and I executed it well to keep control,” said the world number Sharat.
Sharat, 38, said that given the turbulent 2020, it was a great relief.
“A lot has happened since March 2020. I became a champion in Oman and I was in a good relationship, I was preparing to play the qualifying match in Thailand in just two weeks and suddenly everything stopped.
“I achieved the best ranking in my career and it’s a huge sigh of relief, especially the way it was this year. Although this will be my fourth Olympics, these will be my best Olympics.”
In order to secure a double qualification, Sharat also advanced to the semi-finals in the mixed doubles with Manica Batra after the pair defeated Mohamed Abdulwahbab and Maha Faramarzi of Qatar 11-6, 11-6, 11-2, 11-3 in the quarters.
The star Indian pair, who received a goodbye in the first round, will now face Koen Pang Yew En and Ye Lin of Singapore in the last four matches on Friday.
Satian is also just one win away from joining Sharat in the Tokyo Games qualifier, as he faces Ramees in the final game of the South Asian group stage later tonight.