Covid derails qualifying events, Tokyo Olympic hopes of Saina, Srikanth

The June 1-6 event was the final qualification event for Tokyo and its cancellation ended the hopes of those players who had hoped to squeeze through from the Super 500 tournament.
Saina Nehwal.(REUTERS)
Saina Nehwal.(REUTERS)
Updated on May 12, 2021 09:29 PM IST
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By, New Delhi

The dream of Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics ended on Wednesday with the cancellation of the $320,000 Singapore Open badminton tournament.

The June 1-6 event was the final qualification event for Tokyo and its cancellation ended the hopes of those players who had hoped to squeeze through from the Super 500 tournament.

“All attempts were made by the organisers (Singapore Badminton Association) and BWF to provide a safe tournament environment for all participants,” Badminton World Federation (BWF) said.

“However, rising Covid-19 cases globally led to complex challenges in managing inbound travel. Thus, in the interests of all players, tournament personnel and the local community’s health and safety, the event has been cancelled. BWF will issue a further statement on Tokyo 2020 qualifying at a later date.”

It had already looked over for Saina and Srikanth after the India Open (May 11-16) and Malaysia Open (May 25-30) were postponed and Wednesday’s announcement ended the hopes of the two former world No.1 players.

Saina had hoped to play in her fourth Olympics. She became the first Indian to win an Olympic medal in badminton with bronze at London 2012. Srikanth reached the quarter-finals at Rio 2016.

They had to reach the top 16 in the Race to Tokyo list to make the cut. But Saina is No. 22 in women’s singles and Srikanth No. 20 in men’s singles as on Wednesday, with no tournaments left to earn points.

The hopes of Ashwini Ponnappa-N Sikki Reddy (women’s doubles) and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Ponnappa (mixed) also ended. They too were in the queue for Tokyo qualification.

The call on Singapore Open all but confirms India’s entries for Tokyo—PV Sindhu (women’s singles), B Sai Praneeth (men’s singles) and Chirag Shetty-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (men’s doubles). India will have two fewer berths in badminton than 2016.

Sai, Ponnappa-Reddy and Shetty-Rankireddy had already withdrawn from Singapore Open due to a strict quarantine protocol. Singapore imposed a travel ban on Indians on April 24. To participate, they would have had to quarantine in a foreign country for two weeks or be in a three-week quarantine in Singapore.

Though Covid-19 cases in the island nation are pretty low, officials last week banned spectators at sporting events and tightened travel curbs after discovering several new clusters.

Though 2021 started positively for badminton with Bangkok hosting three back-to-back tournaments in January with players in a bio-bubble, the spurt in Covid-19 cases across the globe forced the cancellation or postponement of many tournaments in the Olympic qualifying cycle.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    From badminton to cricket, Sandip Sikdar writes on many sporting disciplines. He has the experience of working in digital, news agency as well as print organisations. Motorsport remains his first love.

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Friday, May 20, 2022