Sharath Kamal and the Power of Longevity

India and its people have displayed tremendous determination, strength, and perseverance in the 75 years since independence. Today, we’d like to highlight a different trait this country possesses. A trait, often seen in retirees or as we like to call them – ‘WisGen’, which is short for the ‘Wisdom Generation’. That of longevity.

In the days that have passed, we have seen longevity in one’s career of choice epitomized by India’s Commonwealth hero, Achanta Sharath Kamal. The veteran table tennis player encapsulates this trait better than most. He picked up 3 gold medals and 1 silver for his country, in his trailblazing run at the recently held Commonwealth Games 2022. He picked up the gold in the men’s singles category for the second time in his career, the first being way back in the Commonwealth Games 2006 in Melbourne. His partner in the mixed doubles category Sreeja Akula is 24 years of age, to Kamal’s 39, who was a wee toddler when Kamal won gold for the first time. Kamal’s story is inspiring because sports, much like larger societies, tend to romanticize their prodigies. That’s where all the media attention, government funding and public attention remains. Little emphasis is placed on and appreciation meted out to the athlete past his ‘prime’. Much like Leander Paes and M S Dhoni have in tennis and cricket respectively, Kamal showcases the value of focus and hard work in longevity and success in a sport. In a world where ageism is rampant, especially in the world of sports, it is truly refreshing to see our nation being represented by a veteran who many would have written off merely due to his age. Kamal’s is a story of how experience is what skill needs to best showcase itself.

It is also important to note the role Kamal will play in Akula’s development, serving as a role model for the promising youngster. Kamal himself wouldn’t be where he is today without the mentorship of his father and uncle, who were national-level paddlers in their own right. They are credited with giving Kamal the mental fortitude to handle defeat and move forward, something that has held him in good stead. Sharath Kamal and his coaches are a fine example of how one’s best years aren’t decided on the stage of life they’re in. One can apply oneself to a craft in a multitude of ways regardless of age. Be it as a young prodigy, a seasoned veteran, or an experienced mentor.

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