India’s quest for gold medal: Badminton
Being someone who loves to thrive on the big stage, badminton star PV Sindhu is the best bet to satiate the country’s thirst for a second individual gold medal from the Olympics. India haven’t won anything before or after shooter Abhinav Bindra’s golden triumph at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
With Carolina Marin ruled out due to knee injury — Sindhu had lost to the Spaniard in the final of the Rio Olympic Games — there is huge expectation that the reigning world champion will bring home the yellow metal.
Seeded sixth in Tokyo, Sindhu should have it easy till the quarter finals. Placed in the bottom half, Sindhu will face Hong Kong’s world No. 34 Cheung Ngan Yi and Israel’s Ksenia Polikarpova, ranked 58th.
The real battle, however, begins from the last-eight stage. In the round of 16, Sindhu is expected to be up against Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt. Sindhu had lost to Mia in the round of 32 at the Thailand Open at the beginning of the year. If Sindhu reaches the quarter finals, local favourite Akane Yamaguchi would probably be her opponent. In the All England badminton championship quarter final, Sindhu defeated Yamaguchi after one hour and 16 minutes of thrilling action, but that was Yamaguchi’s only loss to her in the last four outings.
In the last-four stage, Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan could be be waiting and then if she crosses that hurdle, either Chen Yufei of China or Japanese Nozomi Okuhara would in all likelihood be the final opponent.
Sindhu, after severing ties with national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand, has been training with Park Tae-sang from last year at the Gachibowli Stadium and has gone on record to praise the Korean coach.
But the Gopichand factor looks most intriguing. Having masterminded Saina Nehwal’s bronze medal in London and Sindhu’s silver four years later, Gopichand will not be travelling to Tokyo this time. That’s because he was not working with any of the four shuttlers who will compete at the Olympics.
In the men’s singles, Praneeth doesn’t look like going past the quarter finals even though his round of 16 match should be equally tough. If the seedings hold, Praneeth will face Indonesian Ng Ka Long Angus in the pre-quarters. If he staves off that challenge, Japanese star Kento Momota will probably be up next.
The draw has also been not kind to the doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy. The doubles pair are placed in Group A, which is being termed as the pool of death.
The Indians begin against world No.3 pair of Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin of Chinese Taipei. They will also have to face Indonesian top seeds Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon of Indonesia and world No.18 British pair of Ben Lane and Sean Vendy.
⚫ The 26-year-old shuttler is seeded sixth at Tokyo Olympic Games
⚫ She was the silver medallist at the Rio Olympics
⚫ She is also the reigning world champion
⚫ Badminton became an official sport at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games.
⚫ China has been the most dominating force in badminton at the Olympics with 18 gold medals.
We need to see the group stage to predict what’s in store for Indian badminton in Tokyo. Yes, PV Sindhu is our biggest hope and we all want her to go one better than she did at the Rio Olympics. If she does that, the world champion will be an Olympic gold medal winner too. But let’s not put to much pressure on Sindhu.
My advice will be to go and enjoy the competition.
She did fairly well at the All England losing to Thailand’s Pornpawee Chochuwong in an one-sided semi-final clash. But that’s because she was drained out after that marathon quarter-final clash against Akane Yamaguchi. I strongly feel Sindhu can go the distance if she plays her cards well on the given day.
B. Sai Praneeth also can spring a few surprises but much will depend on how he handles the pressure. Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy did not get a favourable draw. But still I think they have the quality to go to the knock-out round.
Finally, it’s a very good thing that the Games are finally happening. My message to the four shuttlers will be just enjoy the occasion and do not put on unnecessary pressure. All the best!
U Vimal Kumar
Former national badminton coach and Dronacharya award winner who represented India in the 1992 Olympics