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Meet India's new ping pong wizard

His Commonwealth Games haul of two table tennis gold medals -- one for the singles and one for the team championships -- has made Achant Sharath Kamal famous overnight. Even in his neighbourhood.

The moment I asked for directions to Kamal's house from two young boys standing near the road where Kamal lives, they said, "Isn't he the guy who won gold medals and is being shown on television?"

The 23 year old's newfound fame is evident even in his house, which is flooded with journalists wanting to interview him.

It is 5 pm and the family has just finished lunch, thanks to the unending stream of scribes. But Sharath and his deservedly proud family seem to be enjoying his moment of glory.

What did you expect from the Commonwealth Games?

We had won the Commonwealth Championship gold two years ago in Malaysia but that was a championship exclusively for table tennis.

Of course, the (Commonwealth) Games are more important.

The government was expecting we would get a couple of medals but we were not the strongest team there. We were the Number Four team but we were seeded Number Three.

Even in the singles, I was seeded Number Four. We were expected to win medals because in the last Commonwealth Games, we had won two bronze medals.

So, probably, they would have been happy if we had a won a bronze or a silver. But we got the gold, and it is really great.

Personally, what were you aiming for?

I wanted to win a gold medal because I looked at the Games as a very good hunting ground to improve my world ranking. The better-ranked players who participated at the Games were not very far ahead.

I knew they were beatable.

Text: Shobha Warrier in Chennai
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj

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