Prannoy in no mood to rush back from back injury as toughest job of Olympic qualification awaits

Nov 08, 2023 05:45 PM IST

Prannoy, who ended India’s 41-year wait for an Asian Games with a men's singles bronze, has been managing a back injury which troubled him in Hangzhou.

Recovering from a back injury, star Indian shuttler HS Prannoy says he doesn't want to force his way back as he knows the "toughest" job of sealing an Olympic berth awaits him next year.

India's HS Prannoy
India's HS Prannoy

The world No. 8 feels Olympic qualification system in badminton is a "big issue" as players can't pick and choose tournaments, making the next few months crucial as they try to get into the "safe zone" in terms of ranking by end of April.

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Prannoy, who ended India’s 41-year wait for a medal in the Asian Games with a men's singles bronze, has been managing a back injury which troubled him in Hangzhou.

"(It has been) better I would say. (It is) just taking a little more time than usual just to be on the safe side, looking at the number of tournaments which you have to play from next year," Prannoy told PTI in an interview.

"(I am) just taking it a little slowly, not rushing up on the injury side. I would say it is pretty better than how it was during the Asian Games, I have started training also. I will have to look how things pan up in the next few tournaments."

Prannoy is scheduled to participate in the Japan Open Super 500 and China Open Super 750 tournaments this month.

The Olympic qualification period started on May 1, 2023 and will conclude on April 28 next year with players inside the top 16 making the cut.

"That is the biggest problem in badminton as such, where the qualification period is until April 30th. The toughest job is to qualify in badminton — we have to be in the top 16 in world rankings," the 31-year-old said during a collaboration announcement with Federal Bank.

"That is one big issue when we come into an Olympic cycle when we cannot pick and choose much, we will have to play in a lot of tournaments to make sure you are in that safe zone.

"But yes, post April, you can pick and choose what you want to play and will have 2-3 months' of window to kind of train and try to peak for the Olympics. But before that, I would say (it is) still running the race and it is pretty much open to all the players who want to qualify."

Prannoy, who had claimed a maiden world championships bronze this year, is optimistic about India's medal chances at the Paris Games.

"The next few years look very promising. Definitely, we have been on the rise since the last 10 years, big medals coming in from big events — in every single cycle of Asian Games, Commonwealth Games or Olympics — we have been able to get medals," he said.

"Looking at the Paris Olympics, (I am) very optimistic that we have a very strong badminton squad out there for medal prospects, we have men’s singles, men’s doubles and women’s singles also which are very strong and we can always bank on for a medal.

"Post that, we will have to see how the juniors are going to come in and fare in the next four years. But for the time, being we are just thinking (about the) 2024 Olympic Games."

Prannoy said he is not losing his sleep over rankings and focusing on improving his consistency.

"Take care of the consistency and the ranking also takes care of itself. In the coming year also that would be the target, to see how consistent badminton you can play — and that is the toughest thing to do given the number of tournaments coming up — and how to manage your body in the right way.

"We also have to do the workload correctly. That is the biggest challenge which I face as a player in the coming next few years."

The man from Thiruvananthapuram said he hasn't moved to Tamil Nadu yet but is looking at a long-term association with TNBA.

"I have not yet (moved)," he said.

"Tamil Nadu has been a big supporting factor for the sportspersons and the badminton association of Tamil Nadu is also pretty much interested in making sure that they have the next bunch of players for the state.

"In that way, I was looking at a very long term plan being there and thinking how I can help them (with) the next set of players post my career. Definitely, I would be playing at the highest level for the next 3-4 years and for me to go the next step, the support would be needed. That way, it would be a good option to think about."

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