New Delhi, December 12: It had turned out to be a breakthrough year for India’s most celebrated woman paddler, Manika Batra, as she bagged the 2018 Breakthrough Star award at a glittering function at Incheon tonight.
Thus, the Delhi girl became the only Indian athlete to be honoured at the ITTF Star Awards and also the first player from outside of Japan to be named the Breakthrough Star.
Manika, who enjoyed a sensational outing at the Commonwealth Games, earning India its first-ever gold medal in the women singles category and helping the squad win its first ever gold along with medals in women doubles and mixed doubles events, was bestowed with the honour for being the best paddler find of the year in the category.
Her glittering journey which began at Gold Coast continued in the Asian Games at Jakarta where the Delhi girl played her part to perfection in guiding India to its second table tennis bronze medal at the 2018 Games, partnering A. Sharath Kamal in the mixed doubles.
“I couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of the year. The way it has culminated has made me feel happy and more responsible. I have to thank many for such a wonderful opportunity,” said Manika, speaking from Incheon.
“I really want to thank the International Table Tennis Federation for acknowledging my efforts throughout the year. For me personally, it has been one of the most eventful years of my sporting career so far and this is a just reward for my hard work and training. I would like to thank the Table Tennis Federation of India, Sports Authority of India and the Sports Ministry and, above all, my coach Sandeep Sir and my physio Subodh Sir without whom this wouldn’t have been possible. My thanks are due to my department Indian Oil Corporation Limited for their continuous support.
I would like to thank my family who supported me and been there as my pillar of strength,” said Manika, recalling the efforts each one of them had put in to shape her career.
MASSIMO THE STAR COACH
In fact, it was double celebration for Indian table tennis as chief coach of the national team, Massimo Costantini, received the Star Coach award after leading the country to record-breaking performances at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Asian Games.
India won an astounding eight medals at the CWG in Gold Coast including three gold medals. Besids, India also won their first Asian Games medals in the Men’s Team and mixed doubles at Jakarta.
The Italian, thus, became only the fourth coach to take home the Star Coach award. Earlier, Pedro Rufino, Liu Guoliang and Jörg Rosskopf were bestowed with the honour.
“I can’t thank enough ITTF for the award. But I wouldn’t have been here without the fantastic bunch of players in both sections which TTFI provided me. They were really wonderful and responded well. I must thank all those concerned in India, including SAI, for the wonderful opportunity to serve the cause of Indian table tennis,” said Massimo.
Dushyant Chautala, president of TTFI, in a congratulatory message to Manika Batra said, “she richly deserved the award,” adding, “Manika proved herself in both the Games that a star was born.”
Secretary General M.P. Singh, in his congratulatory message to both Manika and Massimo Costantini, said: “It was a wonderful year for Indian table tennis and Manika epitomized it with her performances. She was the star performer and deserves all the accolades. And Massimo was a worthy coach who made it all possible and I wish him all the success.”
The ITTF Star Awards is the official awards ceremony organised by the international body since 2013. It is the most prestigious award given to recognize, honour and celebrate the stars of table tennis, the athletes who have made table tennis their passion, career and life.