Mahesh Mangoankar was part of the Indian men's squash team that bagged the gold medal in the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea, and he says the current squad will aim to repeat the feat in the upcoming edition of the continental multi-sport event. The experienced player believes the squad, of which he is again a member, will target nothing less than the gold in the Games starting on August 18 in Indonesia, although he singled out Hong Kong as strong title contenders. Mangoankar, along with Saurav Ghosal, Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu and Kush Kumar, had won the gold at the 17th Asian Games at Incheon, South Korea, four years ago. This time, Ramit Tandon is the lone change as replacement for Kumar in the team.
"Yes. We are trying to win it (the gold). We never try for (just) a podium finish and we always try to win the gold," Mangoankar told PTI today.
"Obviously, we are going with the expectation of defending it (title) again and just the fact that last time, we beat Malaysia in the final (is a morale booster)," he explained.
The 24-year-old squash player, currently ranked No. 3 in India, was speaking on the sidelines of the 43rd Maharashtra State men's squash tournament that began at the Bombay Gymkhana here and in which he is the top seed. Though the draw for the Asian Games is yet to be completed, Mangoankar feels Hong Kong have the best team.
"This year, we are likely to play them (Malaysia) in the semi-finals, if we get there. And semi-finals again will be a tough match. And in the final, if we win the semis, then we expect to play Hong Kong.
"Hong Kong has the best team they have ever produced. All of them are in the top 30 in the world. So, they are still favourites to win the tournament, even if we are the defending champions," Mangoankar said.
The Indian team is to assemble in Chennai for a small camp before leaving for Indonesia which is hosting the continental games in Jakarta and Palembang.
"The preparation is good. Just 10 days before the Asian Games, we are going to have a meet in Chennai, starting from the 10th (August).
"We will be having group discussion and training camp. Otherwise everyone has been preparing individually for the past four years," he said.
"We have played together before. Everyone will be giving their 100 per cent for every match. I get along very well with my team mates, and they are like a family," he added.
Mangoankar recalled his experience of the 2014 Games, terming clinching the gold as a cherished moment in his career.
"It was just amazing, winning a gold (medal) for India in 2014. It was the best feeling in the world. That week in particular all of us played well.
"We were like bonding (well), discussing a lot of tactics with each other about our opponents, (chalking out) game plans on how to play/beat them. It was a great experience for me," said he, walking down the memory lane.