Teenager Soumyajit Ghosh knows he is not India's best table tennis player to have qualified for the London Olympics. But now that he has, the Silguri-born paddler thinks if he can pull off an upset, it would make his Olympic debut worthwhile.
Like 18-year-old boxer Shiva Thapa, Ghosh had set his sights on the 2016 Olympics. But the 19-year-old realised his dream four years earlier after beating higher-ranked compatriot Anthony Amalraj at the Asian Olympic qualifier in Hong Kong. He became one of the two players to secure the coveted Olympic berth alongside Ankita Das.
"Honestly, I was surprised when I qualified ahead of seniors like Sharath Kamal and Amalraj. But I am very happy that I could qualify and I want to use the opportunity as a learning experience," Ghosh siad from China's National Training Centre, Zhengding, where he is preparing for the London event beginning July 27.
Ghosh has a world rank of 206, lower than Sharath's 63 and Amalraj's 155. India's chief coach Leszek Kucharski is impressed with Ghosh but after the qualifiers he had no qualms in saying that Sharath was still the lone world-class player in the team.
Reacting to the Polish coach's statement, Ghosh says, "I believe what the coach is saying is right because I am the third highest-placed Indian player in the rankings. That is why it is all the more important for me to cash in on this opportunity."
He is clear in his mind on what he wants to achieve in London.
"It is obviously very difficult to win a medal at the Olympics but I aim to beat 2-4 good players. I think it is possible if I get a decent draw. The preparation has been good. It was perfect to be training in China at this time," says Ghosh, adding that he is specifically working on his fitness, known to be a weak point in his game.
Ghosh's Olympic qualification might surprise some but he is definitely a worthy candidate for the opportunity.
In 2010, he made history after winning a mixed doubles bronze in the World Junior Championships and achieved a similar feat with the Indian team in the next edition of the premier tournament.
Those medals can be attributed to Ghosh's multiple visits to five-time doubles World Champion Peter Karlsson's academy in Sweden, where he honed his skills with the likes of Harmeet Desai and G.Sathiyan.
"My Sweden trips in the last three years have helped me improve my game tremendously and is one of the strongest reasons that I qualified for Olympics," Ghosh said.
"I have learned many tricks of the trade from Peter. Not only he is one of the best coaches in the world, he is also one of the best human beings I have met. I am thankful to TTFI that they sent me there and I could improve my game so much," said Ghosh, whose powerful forehand drives are a treat to watch.
Ghosh doesn't forget to praise his Polish coach Kucharski.
"I have all the highest regard for him. He has been a great player. He is very good with the technical aspects of the game and I have been fortunate to gather some vital tips from him," he says of the former World No. 11.