How Roger Federer, Kobe Bryant made Olympics special for Sharath Kamal
For Indian table tennis star Achanta Sharath Kamal, the Olympic Games represent a treasure trove of cherished memories.
A three-time Olympian, Achanta Sharath Kamal has represented India at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016. Each of them, according to the 38-year-old, has been special.
“In 2004, I was very young but it was a good experience. I still remember dining with Roger Federer and walking past Kobe Bryant. All these big names are close to you. It’s amazing,” Achanta Sharath Kamal told former table tennis player Kamlesh Mehta during an Instagram Live session.
“Some of the fonder memories from 2004 was meeting Leander Paes, talking to him and then meeting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. I did not recognize him then and it was only after he won the medal that I realized that I had met an Olympic medallist,” Sharath Kamal added.
Breakfast at Beijing
Achanta Sharath Kamal admits that his debut Summer Games went past in a blur but by the time his second trip to the Beijing Games came, he was much-more tuned to the spirit of the Olympics.
“In 2008, I understood the Olympics is a special tournament and it needs special preparations. In 2004, I was just selected and things were too fast. By the time I realized what the Olympics meant, it was over.
“But in 2008, I actually understood the importance and how people struggle to even represent their country. My means were limited, but I prepared the best I could,” he remembered.
Sharath Kamal reached the Round of 32 in Beijing but it was an unexpected breakfast which was the highlight of his trip.
“In 2008, Rathore asked me to join him for breakfast. He invited the entire table tennis team to come and have breakfast with him and that was really very special. That inspires you a lot,” the table tennis star recalled.
Having missed the London 2012 Games, getting back on the Olympic stage again at Rio 2016, was another special feeling for Sharath Kamal.
“At Rio, it felt like it was my first Olympics,” he stated.
Secret behind iconic long hair and bandana
With his long hair and the bandana, the 2006 Commonwealth gold medallist is one of the recognizable faces in Indian sports but Sharat Kamal had a secret to share.
“In 2004, I was in Europe and had forgotten to cut my hair before leaving. In Sweden, it cost Rs 4,000 for a haircut. So, I came back without cutting my hair for three-four months.
“At that time, my favourites like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had long hair and they were also wearing the bandanas. So, I thought I should also start. I liked it and it became an identity.”