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Ankur and Pritha are favourites to grab the singles titles at KIYG 2023 table tennis

Chennai: The sixth edition of the Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG), which are witnessing the participation of about 5,000 sportspersons across 26 disciplines in Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Trichy, has entered the last leg. Already, young players have made heads turn with their performances in several disciplines.

One can expect the paddlers to join the star parade with an exciting finish during the next five days of singles and doubles action, starting at the Tamil Nadu Physical Education and Sports University (Melakottaiyur) facilities from tomorrow. The KIYG, which began on January 19 with the inauguration by Prime Minister Narender Modi, culminates on January 31.

The Tamil Nadu Government, playing hosts for the first time, has made elaborate arrangements with the right intentions and pumped in lots of money to make it worthy of the Games. However, the lack of coordination in several aspects, from transport to food, and inexperience have somewhat taken the sheen of the Games. The hotter climate across the state has also thrown a spanner in the works and has not done any good to the participating athletes.

Though the creamy layer of youth players competes under the format, there is provision for wildcard entries, which usually go to the weaker states. This time, one male paddler from Mizoram and Tripura and one female player from Ladakh have been considered in the category, providing better opportunities for them to rub shoulders with the best in business, besides fulfilling the concept of KIYG.

Sixteen entries in either section of boys or girls make the contests riveting because the players, who finished the season on high notes in the recent nationals, are in the best frame of mind. However, only 15 entries are there in the boys’ singles. Competition Manager N. Ganeshan has written to the GTCC, informing it of the vacant slot. But no information has been received till the time of writing. The CBSE had nominated Sarth Mishra to fill their quota, but the UP player is already in the top national ranking and an automatic choice. Now, CBSE must find a replacement for him before the events begin.

The group draw in singles would be based on the ranking points individuals have obtained. It is also the basis for seeding the players in the main draw.

The form book favours Ankur Bhattacharjee and Pritha Vartikar to grab the top honours in their respective sections. Maharashtra finished an overall champion in the last edition, and it will be no different here because the top four girl paddlers are ahead of the rest in points. In other words, they should dominate the singles and doubles, with West Bengal throwing in adequate challenges. Hosts Tamil Nadu have a four-boy strong squad, and P.B. Abhinand could stand between Ankur and the gold medal.

In comparison, Kavyashree Baskar will have to do a lot of work to get noticed in the race for medals, with paddlers from Bengal and Karnataka lurking around. Suhana Saini may not have had a good end of the season, but the Haryana player is another real contender for the medal.

The events will be conducted under the stewardship of A.S. Kler, the referee, who will have help from his Deputy, Mangesh Mopker.




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