Gopichand backs badminton stars Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal for Tokyo spot

A modified and bigger qualifying window early next year will offer Srikanth and Saina a solid chance to grab direct berths in the singles competition.

By Subhayan Dutta ·

India’s national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand believes former top-ranked Indian shuttlers Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal can still qualify for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Both Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth are racing against time to improve their Badminton World Federation rankings and qualify for Tokyo. Saina won bronze at London 2012 while Srikanth played in Rio 2016.

Currently, Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal both sit 22nd in their respective men’s and women’s singles category ranking table with 40,469 points and 41,847 points, respectively.

The COVID-19 break has forced a modification in the qualification programme starting early next year, with Pullela Gopichand hoping India’s former men’s and women’s world number ones will start 2021 on a fitter note.

“We will have to see how the players’ fitness and form is, going into next year,” Pullela Gopichand told the Hindustan Times.

“So, that’s when it really counts - those six or seven tournaments. Two or three good performances and they could be in.

“They have a chance to qualify and, hopefully, both Saina and Srikanth will make it,” Gopichand added.

‘Fair decision by BWF’

According to the BWF, the remodified qualification period for Tokyo has been split into two windows – April 29, 2019, to March 15, 2020, and January 4, 2021, to May 2, 2021.

Pullela Gopichand praises BWF's new qualification procedure

And Gopichand believes that the lengthy 17-week qualification window at the beginning of next year was the right decision by BWF.

“I think BWF has done a good job. It is only fair that the tournaments which were left out in the previous qualification (period) are part of the new,” Pullela Gopichand pointed out.

“So it is not unfair for the players who already played well in the previous tournaments which were scheduled as Olympic qualifiers.

“So, only (those) tournaments that were left out in the previous Olympic qualification calendar have been allotted in the new one. It is a fair decision,” he added.

Where do Indian badminton players stand

There are only three events - men’s singles, women’s singles and the men’s doubles – where Indian shuttlers are close to sealing Olympic spots through direct qualification.

PV Sindhu is India’s best hope in women’s singles. She is seventh in the Olympic qualification table with 70,754 points. Men’s singles contender B Sai Praneeth is 13th with 51,527 points.

The men’s duo of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy are 10th with 57,500 points.