While many athletes have seen their workouts reduced and a lack of training partners, Indian table tennis star Sathiyan Gnanasekaran has found a way around it.
The Chennai lad is using an automated robot, the Butterfly Amicus Prime, to help keep his skills sharp in the absence of a training partner.
“The robot keeps me on my toes and I practice with it for around one-and-a-half hours,” Sathiyan Gnanasekaran told The Times of India.
“It can generate speeds and spin on the ball which no humans can manage. As a result, my receiving ability has improved, and the flicks have also gotten better.”
The Indian table tennis star, ranked 31 in the world and the highest among Indian paddlers, acquired the robot from Germany on the advice of his coach, former player Subramanian Raman.
The 27-year-old can customize the machine to his liking and its ability to spew out more than 100 balls each minute at varying speeds and spin ties in well with his fluid movement behind the table.
A potential Olympics debut pushed ahead
Having broken into the top 25 of the ITTF rankings in 2019, making him the first Indian table tennis player to do so, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran was in good form coming into the year.
He paired up with veteran Achanta Sharath Kamal to win the men’s doubles silver at the Hungarian Open before opting out of the Oman Open in a bid to stay injury-free and manage his workload in an Olympic year.
The Indian table tennis star’s current ranking would have easily seen him make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics which would have just reward for his efforts in the past few years.
However, the coronavirus outbreak forced the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Games by a year, meaning that he would have to put any debut on hold for now.