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An Under-21 match played in Santiago, Chile in August 2011 is Manika Batras fondest memory so far. Indias top-ranked womens table tennis player, 16 at the time, came back from two games down in the semi-final against Japans Kasumi Ishikawa to win the next four games on the trot. Ishikawa, who won the womens singles title two days later, is now ranked sixth in the world.I had no expression on my face, though I was delighted, says Manika, who will be leading the Indian challenge in the womens singles event at the Rio Olympics alongside the seasoned Mouma Das.Born into a family in Delhi where elder siblings Anchal and Sahil both took up table tennis, Manika tried her hand at the sport at the age of four. Early signs of natural ability came when she won a match in a state-wide tournament for Under-8 players. That was around the time she enrolled with Sandeep Gupta, her coach to date.She was four years old when I first took a trial of hers, says Gupta. I have seen how other countries formulate their sports plan; for instance in China, by the time a child is four-five years old, they can tell which sport he/she is best suited for. Thats why it was an advantage for Manika to start this young.On Guptas recommendation, Manika switched schools in the first standard, joining her coachs academy at Hansraj Model School. This also brought her in contact with her elder sisters peer Neha Aggarwal, who would go on to play a major role in inspiring Manika.Neha, who competed in Beijing eight years ago and will complete a sports management degree from Columbia University in New York soon, remembers Manikas early days as a shy child who kept to herself. For some reason, she used to be really scared of our coach, says Neha. Id keep telling her to open up.Gupta says: In India, theres often a very thin line between having respect for a coach, and getting into a comfort zone. Manika always followed everything I said. But her problem was her nature; she often couldnt express herself. If she wanted to learn something new or work on something in her game, she could often not say it for herself, which made it a greater challenge for me as coach.Thats when Gupta employed a novel method to work with Manikas strength, her backhand, and turn it into a potent weapon. Neha remembers how both she and Manika were made to play with long-pimple rubber on their backhand and the more conventional inverted rubber on their forehand. This has made Manikas forehand considerably stronger over the past four years, says Neha.Manikas height, five feet eleven inches, also gives her an edge over many opponents. Because of her reach, shes always close to the table and hence can switch from forehand to backhand without too much movement. But the downside is that balls played to her body require an extra split-second to retrieve. Her height has also made her vulnerable to injuries in the past. Because I am tall, I have had issues with my back and thighs, but I have been working hard to strengthen my core, Manika says. I have paid a lot of attention to fitness.The effort Manika has been putting into fitness is just one of the things that has always impressed both Neha and Gupta. What often happens with kids is they get bored if you ask them to master one aspect at a time, Gupta says. Due to lack of maturity, they want to quickly move on from skills to exercise to fitness. But Manika was always dedicated, and she would continue to do whatever she was asked to without complaining.Neha says: Shes a completely different person on the table from what she is off it. She knows how to put her game face on. On the table, shes very aggressive. She can be very deceptive with her game, and her game has the perfect mix of aggression and passive play.Manikas performances have improved over the past two years, with a quarterfinal finish at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, a match she believes she should have closed out against eventual bronze-medallist Lin Ye of Singapore.Since 2014 she has cultivated the habit of recording the matches of every competitor to analyse their strengths and weaknesses. Daily meditation also helps her stay calm.These attributes helped her in a competitive group alongside compatriots Das, Pooja Sahasrabuddhe and K Shamini at the Asian qualifiers for the Olympics in Hong Kong in April. After losing her first match to Pooja, she came back strongly to top her group by beating both Shamini and Das to book her berth to Rio. The last win would have been the most satisfactory, as the experienced Das had beaten Manika in the final at the South Asian Games in February to deny her a perfect return from the event, after golds in the womens team event, the womens doubles and the mixed doubles.Neha believes Manika is part of a generation of players who can revive the status of womens players in India, who have lagged behind the men for a variety of reasons. While all the top five Indian men play for clubs abroad, few among the women do -- only Shamini among the top womens players spent two years playing in Germany. Among the younger players, Diya Chitale of Mumbai and Archana Kamath of Bengaluru are breaking the mould by training abroad, but this is just the start.Indian womens table tennis has lagged behind because our women have never looked beyond a Commonwealth medal, says Neha. The men have sacrificed national championships to go and participate abroad, but that shows that they have learnt to prioritise better.Gupta believes those first steps towards a stellar career could begin in Rio. Manika is still young, and qualifying for Rio in itself is a big thing, says Gupta. Shes the first Indian who has had wins over top-10 womens players in the world across the last couple of years. I wouldnt be surprised if Manika makes the quarterfinals or even better, but I will say that shes got nothing to lose.Neha sounds a word of caution though about expecting too much from someone ranked number 130 in a competitive field of 86 participants. The former Olympian chooses instead to focus on how Manikas role could be significant in terms of the larger picture of womens table tennis in India. Manika is a symbol of a whole new generation of players who are young, talented and much more driven, Neha says. She hasnt trained abroad as yet, and thats where the real challenge for her is. Her career starts once the Olympics get over. Mack Strong Jersey Store . It might not have mattered. While the Dodgers are preparing for the playoffs, the Padres showed their future has promise behind two rookies. Will Herring Jersey Store . But when it comes to determining if Raymond will find a place on the Leafs roster when training camp concludes in a week, well, that decision will ultimately fall to the head coach. https://www.chinacheapjerseys.net/lew-reeve-jersey-store/ . NBA officials ruled the court unplayable in the Bucks final exhibition game on Oct. 25 because players were slipping, and the game was cancelled midway through the first period. Tom Greene Jersey Store .com) - Following a late-game loss to the reigning NBA champs, the Toronto Raptors will look to sustain their recent high-level play as they travel to Indiana to take on the Pacers. Lamonte Hunley Jersey Store . -- If Henry Burris has his way, he will be the starting quarterback to lead the Hamilton Tiger-Cats back to the Grey Cup next year. Theres the likes of NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille ONeal and multitime NBA champion Rick Fox investing heavily in esports, and then theres L.A. Rams offensive guard Rodger Saffold. Saffold, who co-founded Rise Nation, not only is one of the few athletes to own an esports team but also is still playing full time in the NFL. As the aforementioned investors are all retired from professional sports, this means Saffold finds himself in a challenging but perhaps uniquely advantageous situation. And hes using his background as an athlete, and as a gamer, to lead his team to victory.ESPN caught up with Saffold before his match against the Minnesota Vikings to get some insight into what its like to be an active professional athlete and owner of an esports organization.First, Saffold has always enjoyed playing video games. I love puzzles for your brain, Saffold said. When I was growing up, thats what I did. But it wasnt until college that Saffold found the thrill of competitive first-person shooters. I would even say before college; I started playing Call of Duty, and then Call of Duty : Modern Warfare came out... I just was so overboard on it, I could literally play the game all day long, he recalled.As Saffold entered the NFL, he kept a close eye on the world of video games. When I started figuring out that esports was growing, and I saw they were all over the internet on Twitch -- when I saw that there were these huge events -- I was like, OK, I need to get into this. Thats when Saffold, along with his friend and business partner Kahreem Horsley, started Rise Nation. They leveraged industry connections to form their first Call of Duty team and, in their freshman outing, were able to qualify for the Call of Duty Championship 2014: U.S. Regional Final. There, the team made a valiant effort but ended up placing seventh. This was still a remarkable result, considering the high caliber of competition, and it convinced Saffold that he had a legitimate stake in esports.But being fully invested in sports and esports is a challenging proposition. Its tough to do the day-to-day operations, said Saffold. Most of your day is pretty much filled up with, you know, football. Saffold does have the structures in place to manage Rise Nation while hes playing, but that doesnt mean he ignores the team. Rather, he can use his time where its most effective. When it comes down to when I get a chance to speak to the players, when I get a chance to speak with the sponsors, it really shows that Im dedicated to this and that Im giving them time.Saffolds background in the NFL might offer certain advantages when coaching his team. The best thing I can do for these players is show them the intangibles, Saffold said. Being a leader, grinding [through practice maneuvers]... they always say prior proper planning prevents piss-poor performance. Even with Saffolds sports background, however, esports can still feel like unfamiliar territory at times. Actually, [compared to] most of these organizations that already have their business plans together, I feel like Im a step behind them.Owning an esports team while in the NFL has given Saffold the curious role of de facto esports ambassador to his fellow athletes, since hes investing his time and energy into something thats far from the norm. Luckily for Saffold, his teammates are very supportive. I always get questions like Hey, how is our team doing? [and] like Hey, whats going on, whats going down this weekend? he said.Well, this weekend the Call of Duty World Championships are being held in Los Angeles at the Forum. Sixteen teams are competing for an imprressive prize pool of $1.dddddddddddd6 million, big enough to perk the ears of even non-esports fans. I got a lot of my teammates on the list to come and enjoy and see what I got involved in, Saffold said. Thats kind of my job, to try to broaden the horizons of athletes to kind of get into this and see a new sport forming.Considering that the Forum will have a few players from the Rams roaming around, its quite possible that more athlete-led esports organizations could start to appear in the scene in the future. Theyre definitely curious, Saffold said, but once I tell em what you have to do as far as salaries, you know, how you have to handle your business ... you can try to invest, but I have to see how serious you are about this.Saffold made it very clear that Rise Nation is more about his passion than an investment; it was a passion he held even before he entered the NFL. Said Saffold, Now, seeing its growing and going into the right direction, Im going to want to try and hold on to this as much as I can.Theres one subject that any professional athlete knows something about, and thats sponsorship. Beer goes hand in hand with football. and now, because of beer, its become part of the deal with football, Saffold said. For Rise Nation, where Saffold often deals with the sponsors himself, its about quality over quantity.You dont want to get too many sponsors, Saffold said. Its more about getting the right people that fit your organization, people that care about your team just as much as you do.KontrolFreek, a video games controller accessory manufacturer that sponsors Rise Nation, follows the same philosophy. I think finding a great team, and honestly great management and leadership, beyond sort of how the teams performs, is No. 1, said Ashish Mistry, president and CEO. And so once we knew that the Rise Teams were using the KontrolFreek products, it made it very easy to pursue a working relationship with them.While nonendemic sponsors such beer companies are starting to take notice of esports growth, they are proceeding with caution. Esports is still highly fragmented, said Mistry, and that is a possible reason many sponsors are still waiting on the sideline. Unlike traditional sports, esports is usually referred to as a whole, even though there are multiple teams and players in various games with their own specific audiences. But as you see things like the Call of Duty World Championship, things that are sort of more tentpole events, their ability to push corporate dollars downstream and to scale is making it a lot easier for these brands to participate, Mistry continued.No matter how the field might appear now, the consensus is that the world of sponsorship will only expand. As more nonendemic sponsors jump in, players will see larger prize pots, helping them create sustainable careers out of gaming. For Saffold, thats a major plus for building out his team and for growing esports in general.Although the marriage between professional athletes and professional video gaming might seem unlikely, it actually makes a lot of sense. While many others are quick to shrug esports off, those in sports see its potential, as well as the hard work and skill required to play at a top level. These athletes dont view esports as a novelty or a gimmick. They know that these games require great presence of mind, skill and teamwork. And for them, thats enough to want to devote their time, money and passion to something they see as a play for the future. ' ' '