Kolkata: Recognitions and honours are pouring in for the 40-year-old multiple Commonwealth Games medallist A. Sharath Kamal as he became the first paddler from India to get elected to the Athletes’ Commission of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) this week, Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) said on Wednesday.
Sharath, who will be receiving the Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, the highest National sports recognition of the country, from President Droupadi Murmu later this month, is the vice-chairman of the Athletes’ Commission of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
Sharath is one of the ten eminent athletes elected a couple of days ago to the National Olympic body that goes to the polls next month.
Close on the heels of both these recognitions, the ace paddler from India got 187 votes, the second-highest number, behind Elizabeta Samara of Roumania, who received 212 votes, the difference of a mere 8.83 per cent votes polled from their continents—Asia and Europe—respectively. Eight athletes (four male and four female) elected from Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Oceania will serve in the Athletes’ Commission for four years from 2022 to 2026.
Talking of international honour, Sharath felt humbled and happy to know that he got the highest number of votes from Asia, ahead of other candidates from the continent. Liu Shiwen, elected from the female quota, is the other Asian on the Commission, but the Chinese managed only 153 votes!
“I am bowled over and humbled by the recognition. I thank the whole of Asia and all the voters for showering such affection with faith and the CoA (Committee of Administrators) for forwarding my name to ITTF,” said the soft-spoken Sharath. The Indian, whose popularity transcends borders, could also become the vice-chairman of the ITTF’s Athletes’ Commission if the Asian Table Tennis Union (ATTU) decides to push his case.
In the November 7-13 polling, 283 athletes voted to elect eight candidates from different regions, indicating an increase of 18 per cent, compared to 240 in 2018, and the growing popularity and relevance of the Commission. ITTF has followed the same system used for its Annual General Meetings since 2020 for electing athletes to the Commission. Besides the eight athletes, two para-athletes will also serve the four-year term.
Elected Athletes: Elizabeta Samara (ROU), A. Sharath Kamal (Ind), Daniely Rios (PUR), Omar Assar (EGY), Melissa Tapper (AUS), Stefan Fegerl (AUT), Jon Persson (SWE), and Liu Shiwen (CHN). Elected Para-Athletes: Ingela Lundback (SWE) and Kelly van Zon (NED).