Indian table tennis player Harmeet Desai, who is all set to receive the Arjuna Award, on Wednesday said it was his 'childhood dream to win the award.'
"It was my childhood dream to receive the Arjuna Award and it is getting true today. I'm happy that my years of hard work is getting recognised. These kinds of awards help players to do better for the country," Desai told ANI.
He bagged men's singles gold in 21st Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships held in Odisha last month. Desai and Sharath Kamal in men's doubles event won the gold medal in 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast.
The 26-year-old said in the last couple of years table tennis has witnessed changes as the like of Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) and higher rankings of the Indian players.
"In the last 3-4 years, table tennis had witnessed a couple of changes as state and central governments are helping players. UTT started through which foreign players are playing in India and also it gives exposure to the Indian players. Rankings have been improved of our players, now we are in the top ten in the world rankings. We have improved a lot and hope that we will qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics," Desai said.
Desai said that his focus is on to get the first-ever qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as all the players are at their peak.
"Our focus is on the Olympics and we are training hard for the qualification round which is in January next year in Portugal. This is our golden chance to qualify as all Indian players are doing well," Desai said.
"When Indian players used to go to other countries they were not treated well. But now they are inviting us to there country to participate in their leagues and tournaments," he added.
When asked about how is the preparation going without the head coach, he said: "Unfortunately he has not joined the team yet, but all the players are preparing hard for the Olympics qualification with the Indian coaches and will not leave any stone unturned."
Earlier on August 17, Selection Committee named 19 sportspersons for the Arjuna Awards including Desai.