Srikanth holds on to slim Olympic hopes; those assured of Tokyo berth take break
Left stranded after the final three Olympic qualifiers were cancelled, Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth still harbours "some hope" of making it to the Tokyo Games, his faint optimism resting on the world body's assurance of a statement on the qualification process.
Former world number one Srikanth and London Olympics bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal were all but out of contention after the Badminton World Federation (BWF) on Wednesday cancelled the last qualifying event in Singapore due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
The cancellation of the Singapore event (June 1-6) was after Malaysia Open and India Open had to be shelved due to the health crisis.
The BWF, however, said it "will issue a further statement on Tokyo Olympics qualifying at a later date."
"I could have qualified if I had participated in the qualifiers but there is nothing much I can do about it now. Just waiting to see what BWF says about this whole qualification things, so yeah holding on to some hope," Srikanth told PTI.
"I'm not really thinking about what BWF can do, because whatever I think it will naturally be to make my qualification possible."
There is no tournament scheduled till August and Telangana too has gone into a lockdown. Srikanth said he would now take a break from training.
"I have taken a break. They are trying to get some permission for training. If we get that then probably from next week I will start training."
Asked if BWF could have done anything differently, Srikanth said: "Now we can say a lot of things because the tournament is not happening but we really don't know what is happening between the organisers and BWF.
"So, I don't know what else can be done, may be BWF can communicate things better to players."
With no events lined-up, Olympic-bound shuttlers such as P V Sindhu, B Sai Praneeth and men's doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, too have decided to take some time off.
"Definitely disappointed that all the three events got cancelled. I have been training for 7 weeks but now just training without purpose makes no sense," world no 15 Praneeth said.
"I, at least, have Olympics to look forward to and I plan to start training again from next week."
Chirag said "it is difficult to stay motivated" in such uncertain times.
"We trained for one and half months for India Open but the situation worsened. Now we are left with no events after constant planning and training," he said after returning to Mumbai.
"Me and Satwik have decided to relax a bit and not think about badminton. We will be back to the camp next week but the main training for the Olympics will be just one and a half month before the event."
Sindhu too will take the week off.
"Coach Park (Tae Sang) had put a good amount of load on Sindhu till last Monday, so now he asked her to take her mind totally off badminton," Sindhu's father P V Ramana said.
Will the lack of events affect preparation of the players?
"It is not an ideal situation to go into the Olympics without any match practice. But I feel it can be a boon also," said Chirag.
"The top players like the world number ones will need a tune up ahead of Olympics, for them it will be a pressure to perform. For example, Kevin (Sanjaya Sukamuljo) and Marcus (Fernaldi Gideon) have played just one match after a year ... so comparatively we would be under less pressure."
Praneeth too feels no competition could be an advantage.
"I have played only Swiss Open and All England this year, I thought I will get a few good wins in the three events and get some confidence but it's okay, guess it is same for all.
"It could be an advantage also, since we play each other so much, but in the last one year, I have played just two players, so it could be an advantage."