India’s badminton doubles coach to review pairings for Olympic glory
India’s badminton doubles coach Tan Kim Her has, in a short span, given results beyond expectations. Going by the Indian shuttlers’ performances in paired events in recent months, one can say the doubles scene is looking bright.
India finished as the top badminton nation at the Commonwealth Games with six medals, and a lot of credit goes to the doubles players.
The combination of Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, forged by the Malaysian coach just months ago, played a key role in India winning the mixed team gold by beating Malaysia for the first time. Equally spectacular was the fearless showing by young Satwik and Chirag Shetty, who won India’s first men’s doubles silver at CWG. Seasoned Ashwini and Sikki claimed bronze in women’s doubles.
Tan believes Indian pairs have the potential to make the cut in all three doubles events at the Tokyo Olympics. Talk to him about India’s performance in Gold Coast and the Malaysian states it is a small step. What he wants is a medal from doubles teams in Tokyo Olympics.
For that to happen, Tan has a plan in place. He will have a relook at the combinations after the Asian Games, keeping in mind the medal prospect of pairs at Tokyo. The tough competition at the Thomas/Uber Cup and the Jakarta Asian Games (August-September) will give him a good indication of where the teams stand.
“When I came here, singles was the focus. I have had a lot of discussion with players. They are doing very well. I keep telling them it’s a good start, but not good enough. I want more. My dream is Olympics 2020,” Tan said.
“I am very confident we can qualify in three events in 2020. But it doesn’t stop there. I want to return with medals. I have told them I don’t want to go there just to participate. We still have two plus years. I want their results to be consistent. By 2019 you have to step up your game. By Olympics 2020 anything can happen. We can keep making progress.”
FINDING RIGHT PAIRINGS
An important step in that direction is to get the combinations right. Ashwini, who has appeared in two Olympics with Jwala Gutta, is playing both women’s doubles (with Sikki Reddy) and mixed doubles (Satwik). Her pairing with Satwik, particularly, has caught the eye. The two are currently ranked 52 but Tan says they have a good chance at the Olympics, without delving into whether the seasoned pro should drop one event.
“The Olympic points start next year in April, so after Asian Games I am going to sit down with the players and think carefully which direction we want to go. If we think we can handle two events then we go for two events, or else we will have to give up one event. I will take players’ feedback and decide,” Tan reveals.
“Important part is that we want to win medals and not go there just to participate.
“In ladies doubles, if you compare to other countries like China, it is not easy to compete. But we have Ashwini and Sikki only and we need to put in a lot of work with them. Ashwini and Satwik, the way they have played in Sudirman and even CWG, they have a good chance.”
The choices at Tan’s disposal are limited but that is no deterrence. Since he joined, Tan has tried out several combinations to get the right mix. He has earned the trust of players. The players rave about his training methods and the difference he has brought to their game.
“India can’t compete like Korea, Japan, China, even Chinese Taipei strength-wise. We can’t play the game they play. We have to train different, play different. European players are not hard hitters. They are playing a more tactical game and mentally they are strong. I told the players Denmark is a good example. You can see they are confident on court, their body language.”