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Goodbye junk food

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Goodbye junk food

Minimal chocolates, no sweets, hard work behind Sathiyan's rise from obscurity to World No. 31

It was three years ago when G Sathiyan got a wake-up call. It wasn't his coach, neither his family - it was a simple blood test report.

At that time, the Chennai boy was fresh out of engineering college and trying to make a name for himself in the professional circuit when reality hit him. A string of poor performances brought the 25-year-old face-to-face with a familiar foe - junk food.

"I was wrong in thinking I would never gain weight despite whatever I ate," Sathiyan said during a conversation with Mail Today on Thursday.

"I used to eat a lot of chocolates, ate a few after every match, in fact. I loved sweets and constantly binged on them. I was not getting fat in appearance despite eating junk and that obviously motivated me to eat more. My habits had a big impact on my performance and that's when I got the reality check. My blood test report showed I had no strength and endurance. I wasn't getting fat but it was bringing my game down," he explained.

Bananas replaced chocolates, ice cream became a luxury and sweets exited from his diet completely as Sathiyan worked on the road to recovery.

Diet and nutrition weren't the only two aspects the Commonwealth Games gold medallist worked on. A plethora of change brought to fitness and technique resulted in the 25-year-old rise from outside a rank of 100 in 2017 to career-high 31st.

"I hired a team of professionals who played a vital role in where I stand today. I had to make a major change in my diet. Zero sweets, very less chocolates and a cheat meal a week became my lifestyle. I had to beat the beast inside me - I totally worked upon my ranking.

"Fitness worked as a key factor, I believe. The small regimes and serves - which are otherwise boring - helped me improve. I served around 1000-2000 balls a day as part of my routine. I naturally had a good speed and tried to maximise that with strength and power. I worked on my core strength, since table tennis is a sport where you have to use your legs and hands are just to direct the ball. I increased my mass on the legs and core strengthening also helped me improve my game," said Sathiyan, an Asian Games bronze medallist with the men's team.

Looking forward, the World No. 31 suggested a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics remains a realistic dream. Preparations have begun and a roadmap to the coming 20 months has already been panned out.

"The 2020 Olympics is a realistic dream. I think if I continue to perform like this, I could win a medal for the country, even if it's in doubles. I will train in Japan and China and the upcoming tournaments will also be important. I will also have a program in Germany, will train there. The focus will be on getting my rank inside top 20 so that I get attain the qualifying mark and also get a favourable draw in the event," he concluded.