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Arjuna awardee Manika Batra has mixed feelings as coach ignored for Dronacharya


New Delhi: Indian table tennis player Manika Batra during a function, in New Delhi, Thursday, Sept 20, 2018. (PTI Photo/Atul Yadav)(PTI9_20_2018_000039B)

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An Arjuna award for her historic achievements has made Manika Batra happy but only just, as she says the Dronacharya snub to her coach Sandeep Gupta has been a dampener. The celebrations after securing the country’s second highest sporting honour were subdued as her childhood coach Gupta missed out on the Dronacharya award for the second time.

“Yes I wanted him to get the award. But it is the government’s decision and we have to respect that. I will work harder so he gets it next time,” Manika told PTI after being named as a sponsored athlete of Herbalife Nutrition here on Thursday.  “It’s a case of being partially happy for her,” said her mother Sushma.

Manika, who is the first Indian woman to win a Commonwealth Games gold and an Asian Games bronze, was also in the running for Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. “I was expecting that (Khel Ratna) but there were other deserving athletes. It is fine. I will continue to strive for it,” said the 23-year-old.

While her coach was overlooked for Dronacharya, another deserving candidate , Srinivasa Rao, father of India’s finest A Sharath Kamal, got the selection committee’s nod.

Rao is among the eight coaches who will be bestowed with Dronacharya on September 25. Manika’s coach Gupta was obviously disappointed with the snub. “I have no issues as long as any deserving coach gets the award. My problem is with the number of Dronacharya awardees every year. It should be at par with Arjuna winners. Behind every Arjuna winner, there is years of hard work put in by a coach. It must be acknowledged,” lamented Gupta.

He, however, was happy for Manika, who joined Virat Kohli, Saina Nehwal and M C Mary Kom as Herbalife ambassadors.

The Delhi-based paddler has reached 56th in the latest ITTF rankings and aims to break into the top 30 by December end. “I have four tournaments to go on the Pro Tour. The target is to be in top 30, for that I need to beat some top players. The men’s team is doing well and that is also motivating.”

Having conquered the Japanese and Koreans at the Asian Games, the Indians have also been able to instill doubts in the minds of the mighty Chinese. “Even the Chinese are scared of us. Earlier, the mindset was that they were unbeatable but not anymore. We can beat them,” said Manika.

Talking about her surprise mixed doubles bronze alongside Sharath in Jakarta, she added: “We hardly practiced before the Asian Games. We barely had five sessions before the competition. It all just clicked for us on that one day.”

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