July 24, 2021 11:00:40 am
Milestone: 2018 CWG team gold medal and two-time national champion
At Olympics: Debut
Parents: Nita (mother)
Five years ago, Sutirtha Mukherjee faced a bleak future after the national table tennis federation banned the then 20-year-old player over age-fudging.
It all now seems a passé. A wise and more agile, Sutirtha booked the flight to Tokyo in style: By convincingly beating India No.1 Manika Batra in the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Doha.
After returning from the one-year ban, the Bengal player who was born in Naihati worked tirelessly. Knowing very well, Naihati has only limited resources, the mother and daughter left the small town to join the academy run by national players – Soumyadeep Roy, national coach and Poulomi Ghatak – in Kolkata. Soon she made it to the national team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games and claimed a historic team gold medal.
Just before the CWG, she emerged national champion in 2017 and did an encore in 2019.
By reaching Tokyo, Sutirtha has realised her childhood dream of becoming an Olympian.
In Tokyo, Sutirtha will be competing only in women’s singles and faces Linda Bergstrom from Sweden, a higher-ranked player. The rivals met once before in a world team tournament in Portugal last year. When Linda defeated Sutirtha in that meeting, it also ended India’s ambitions during the 2020 ITTF World Team Qualification tournament held in Gondomar.
Meeting Linda, now World No. 70, for the second time will be tough for Sutirtha. The Indian will face Yu Fu from Portugal (No. 55) in the second round and much tougher Mima Ito of Japan (No. 30) in the third.
Sutirtha has also posted facile wins over the likes of Patrissa Solja and Cheng I Ching (both in the 2019 UTT while playing for U Mumba) and against Romanian World top-20 player Bernadette Szocs in Gondomar tournament. So it is not like that she is a greenhorn in the four-member Indian team and will be keen to prove otherwise. There is no better time than now at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Saturday (July 24) to do it.
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