Santoo Shrestha qualifies for Paris Olympics


Kathmandu, May 16: Table tennis player Santoo Shrestha is representing Nepal in the 2024 Paris Olympics. Shrestha qualified for the Olympics by emerging victorious at the South Asian Regional Qualification Tournament in Kathmandu on Wednesday. 

Nepal’s entry to the Olympics was guaranteed after Shrestha alongside Sanyog Kapali progressed to the final of the men’s qualifier after defeating two Sri Lankan players in the semi-final. Shrestha and Kapali then competed for Nepal’s spot in the Olympics.

In the semi-final, Kapali defeated Chameera Ginige by winning the first four sets consecutively and Shrestha was victorious against Jayasanka de Silva by winning the sets by 4-2.

After two wins in the semi-finals, Shrestha and Kapali, in front of a packed National Table Tennis Training Centre’s covered hall, contested for the opportunity to represent the country. 

Minister for Youth and Sports Biraj Bhakta Shrestha alongside National Sports Council member-secretary Tanka Lal Ghising had also arrived for the final matches in the female and male categories. 

Dheema of the Maldives won in the female category after defeating Bimandee Bandara of Sri Lanka in the final. Bimandee had entered the final after defeating Nepal’s Evana Thapa in the semi-final while Dheema defeated Sri Lanka’s Ishara Madurangi. Dheema is also the first athlete from the Maldives to qualify for the Olympics.

Meanwhile, Shrestha and Kapali’s final was a pleasure for the viewers as the fierce competition reached the final set after it was levelled 3-3. Shrestha then won the final seventh set by the score of 11-9 and confirmed his spot in the biggest sporting event of the world.

Shrestha started the final by winning the first set with a score of 11-7. However, Kapali bounced back in the second set (11-8) to level the score 1-1. Nevertheless, Shrestha won the next two sets, scoring 11-7 and 11-6 to lead 3-1. 

Meanwhile, Kapali, taking the first point in the 5th and 6th sets, went on to defeat Shrestha in the next two sets and take the match to the 7th set. 

Kapali got the first point in the final set as well, but it did not end as the last two sets. Scoring a point in turns to take the score to 4-4, a proper gap was visible after Shrestha took the next four points consecutively. 

Shrestha then went for the final point by restricting Kapali to 6. Yet, Kapali did not give up and took three points to make it 10-9. While it was suspected that the final set would reach a deuce, Shrestha got the final point and became Nepal’s representative in table tennis at the Paris Olympics to be held in July-August 2024.

“Earlier, I had never dreamed of participating in the world’s biggest sporting event, the Olympics, because it never seemed possible. We had to play in the Asian qualifiers after winning in the South Asian qualifiers,” said Shrestha, adding, “I had defeated Sri Lankan players earlier as well, so I was confident. It is why I finally started dreaming of entering the Olympics this time.”

Shrestha, despite winning medals in the South Asian Games and ranking as Nepal’s No. 1 for three years, had left for Australia in 2022 stating, “I could not see my future in Nepal. I will play for Nepal but I also want to make sure to have a good financial ability.”

Officials of the All Nepal Table Tennis Association were the happiest individuals inside the covered hall. They had high hopes from the national table tennis player as India, the dominating side in the South Asian table tennis qualifier for the Olympics, was not participating this time after getting a wild-card entry.

“We have qualified for the Olympics. We will now focus on the tournament. We expect great support from the authorities,” said Rajendra Kapali, national table tennis coach. According to him, NSC member-secretary Ghising and Minister Shrestha have assured every support after the win.

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