A match official places a new shuttlecock on a racket during day two of YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships at Birmingham Barclaycard Arena.(Getty Images)
A match official places a new shuttlecock on a racket during day two of YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships at Birmingham Barclaycard Arena.(Getty Images)

Indian players negative as Covid test confusion eases at All England badminton

  • After the test result chaos of the calendar-restarting Thailand Open in January, similar circumstances made a return at the All England Open Badminton Championships.
By Sandip Sikdar, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 18, 2021 07:42 AM IST

Looks like the confusion and uncertainty over Covid-19 test results ahead of tournaments is to become a norm for shuttlers in the near future, which could crucially affect their Olympic qualification chances.

After the test result chaos of the calendar-restarting Thailand Open in January, similar circumstances made a return at the All England Open Badminton Championships. The prestigious tournament was forced to delay start of play on Wednesday by five hours with the schedule published barely an hour before competition.

The reason: Covid-19 samples collected had to be retested after a number of results returned inconclusive and positive. Three Indian players and a staff member had also returned positive late on Tuesday while others were awaiting confirmation of their inconclusive samples. On retest, all samples returned negative and Indian players were allowed to participate in the Super 1000 tournament—which significantly is not an Olympic qualifier.

“An investigation into the testing and laboratory process was conducted following a number of positive and inconclusive results,” said a Badminton World Federation (BWF) statement. “All positive and inconclusive results were retested after sufficient doubt was raised over the accuracy of the original batches of tests submitted. The outcome of the retest was deemed accurate and appropriate to use by Public Health England with all individuals who had returned an inconclusive or positive test previously are now negative for Covid-19 and cleared to resume their participation in the tournament.”

Indian ace Saina Nehwal—who turned 31 on Wednesday—and HS Prannoy had to go through a harrowing experience in Thailand when they returned positive tests. They were cleared to compete only a few hours later. A week later in the next Thailand Open, B Sai Praneeth was forced to pull out after testing positive while his next test result—given a couple of days later—was negative. Kidambi Srikanth too was forced to withdraw as he was sharing the hotel room with Sai in Bangkok.

Last October, Lakshya Sen, Ajay Jayaram and Shubhankar Dey were forced out of the SaarLorLux Open in Germany after Lakshya’s father DK Sen tested positive.

“Many tests were doubtful so they changed the lab to check the ones that were doubtful to see what comes in that,” said a top Indian shuttler from Birmingham who did not wish to be named. “Looks like this kind of a situation is going to continue in the run up to the Olympics because testing nowhere is accurate and these things are going to happen. Luckily, the authorities agreed to re-test and that’s because the numbers were more. If it was fewer then some would have been out already.”

Due to the inconclusive and positive results on Monday and Tuesday, several shuttlers were denied crucial practice on the eve of the $850,000 tournament. Saina Nehwal and husband Parupalli Kashyap were among those who took to the social media to express unhappiness.

Sindhu progresses

Back on court, world champion PV Sindhu made a smooth start to her campaign, winning 21-11, 21-17 against Soniia Cheah in 39 minutes, taking her win-loss record against the Malaysian to 2-0. The fifth seed will next face Danish Line Christophersen.

While men’s doubles sixth seeds Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty beat English-Indian pairing of Nikhar Garg and Aniruddha Mayekar 21-7, 21-10 in 19 minutes, women’s pair Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy advanced to the second round after beating Thai Benyapa Aimsaard and Nuntakarn Aimsaard 21-14, 21-12 in half an hour.

However, Srikanth and Kashyap lost. Nhat Nguyen upset eighth seed Srikanth 21-11, 15-21, 21-12 in an hour. It was the Indian’s first loss in three outings against the Irish world No.57. On the adjacent court, Japanese world No.1 Kento Momota beat Kashyap 21-13, 22-20 in 42 minutes, taking a 5-0 lead in their career meetings.

Malaysians Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi made short work of MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila, winning 21-13, 21-12, while Danish women’s doubles duo Alexandra Boje and Mette Poulsen beat Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram 21-10, 21-15.

With the event not counted towards Olympic qualification, players from China, South Korea and Taiwan have opted out due to virus restrictions. Spanish Olympic champion Carolina Marin has withdrawn due to an injury.

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