Table-Tennis Happened to Me by Accident: Indian Ace Sathiyan G 

Sathiyan believes that adding more variety to his game will help him succeed in Japan.

Olympic Sports
3 min read

Considered to be the most valued competition in sport, the Olympic Games is the dream of every athlete, and a medal is the icing on the cake. Whilst the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic for a second year running, the Tokyo Olympics is set to wear a very different look with plenty of restrictions.

But be that as it may, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran from Chennai in India can’t wait to get to Tokyo for his first Olympics. One of India’s best Table Tennis players currently, Sathiyan is leaving no stone unturned in his hunt for glory.


“I have been dreaming of playing at the Olympics ever since I started playing the sport. In 2004, when I watched (the Athens Olympics) for the first time, at the age of 11, I really wanted to be part of the Indian contingent. Seventeen years later, my dream has come true,” Sathiyan told The Quint.

He recently asked SAI for an advanced table (San-Ei absolute W advance table) to practise on for the marquee event and having already played in Japan once, he is quietly confident that a good start could be the key to his story.

Sathiyan, who is part of India’s largest TT contingent for the Olympics, believes that adding variety to his game will help him succeed in Japan.

“I am really working on the power aspect of the game because speed and agility have been my strength always. Power is something I need to improve, and I have been working hard on the physical side for it.”

“I have variations; but I believe I need to bring in more in terms of serve, receive, and strokes.”

While most competitions around the world were being called off or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sathiyan managed to make it around the globe, preparing for Tokyo with stints in Poland, Qatar, and Japan.

“With the lack of international tournaments, the leagues became very handy. My plan was to only play the Japan league but the pandemic struck. I wanted more exposure. That’s when I signed in for Poland. There I was more like a favourite but in the Japan League, it is the league that will take you to the next level – not just the matches, but the sheer training with the top players and the system they have. I was the underdog in Japan, complete opposite of (what I had been in) Poland and winning even one match was an upset for me.”

“So being in Japan was like a pre-Olympic preparation for me.”

Having moved around as he did, Sathiyan understandably experienced quite a few bio-secure bubbles. And while the ace paddler says that he is prepared for another lot of bubbles, it is not easy, especially on days when there is no game.

“We did have an experience of a bubble for a month and half in Doha. We can’t go out. We’re not used to it because we want to go (out), have a coffee or eat something.”

"So, it was very, very difficult mentally, and it felt like you have been dumped when you’re not playing a match. It was important to interact with friends and we started doing that more with teammates. But we’re prepared now, this is the new normal, and we’ve had enough experience with the ‘new normal’. So, while heading to the Olympic Games, I think, I will be more prepared.”


Accidental Initiation

When asked about what made him pick Table Tennis, Sathiyan, who believes that the sport is among the most improved in the country in recent years, said it was all a matter of chance.

“My mom wanted to put me in some individual sport and a TT centre had opened very close to my house. So, she wanted something in close proximity, an individual sport, and coming from a middle-class family, it wasn’t a very expensive sport either. These were the reasons, and TT just happened to be the sport.”

“I think TT was more by accident,” Sathiyan signed off.

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