Kashyap: Just qualifying for Olympics is not exciting anymore

Badminton star Parupalli Kashyap said that the Indian men should aim for a medal at Tokyo 2020 Olympics rather than just being content with qualification.

Parupalli Kashyap slammed the BWF schedule ahead of the Olympic qualification.   -  r. ragu

India's men's singles veteran Parupalli Kashyap, who is in the fray to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, is currently plying his trade for Premier Badminton League (PBL) side Mumbai Rockets, which began the season five with a clash against Chennai Superstarz here on Wednesday.

Having already represented India at the 2012 London Olympics and becoming the first men's singles player from the country to reach the quarterfinals at the quadrennial event, Kashyap elaborated on his Tokyo aspirations.

"We have around eight to nine tournaments before May. Not sure if I'm going to play all. First of all, I have to crack the top-20 and then it's one step at a time. I've been saying this since last year, just qualifying for the Olympics is not going to excite me anymore.

"I want to reach a level where I can contend for a medal. And I feel all Indian men's singles players should aim for that. But it gets tough. During Olympic preparations, everyone feels the pressure. I would say, I have an advantage since I've already played well in the Olympics," said the world No. 25.

Kashyap, who has won medals of all three colours at the Commonwealth Games, said he almost quit the sport last year after being repeatedly injured.

"I was upset that I missed Rio (Olympics) because I was in the top-10 back then. I fell and got injured. I just wanted to get back in good shape. I was thinking of quitting almost last year when I was getting injured all the time. I had to get back in and think if I want to play the sport or do something else.

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"But I've just got some more confidence in me now. That's when I put up a few good performances. Let's see how it goes from here. Eventually, whatever age you are doesn't matter. You have to train hard to win. There's only so much experience can do in this endurance-based sport. So you have to be physically up there with the best. That's what I'm trying to do this time," the 33-year-old Indian shuttler added.

Indian Badminton players have been struggling at recent tournaments, with the likes of Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth, H.S. Prannoy and Sameer Verma crashing out in the first round at the ongoing Thailand Masters.

"I feel the rest of them are probably under pressure. It happens, even my 2012 qualification was a mess. I had to dig deep and get lucky sometimes. Last time (Rio 2016), (Kidambi) Srikanth and I got a buffer due to our rankings but I was injured. This time it became tight. I think Sai (Praneeth) did well in a couple of tournaments so he has a buffer. He can back off, train and plan something else.

"Others are going to rush into tournaments. They don't have options right now. They tried their best but they were just getting injured. If you are on the borderline, you have to play all tournaments and hope to click somewhere. It's a tough physical sport and we as Indians will have to work hard on our fitness," Kashyap said.

Players across the world have criticised the Badminton World Federation's (BWF) crammed and uneven calendar in the past and Kashyap agreed with his peers' concerns.

"The BWF calendar is pretty messed up because after Olympic Qualification started there was New Zealand and then there was a month's rest and then there was Australia. It was so ridiculous. Someone coming from Europe has to make two separate trips, with a three-week gap in between, to places close to each other. Before, Australia and New Zealand Open were together.

"For two months, there were only two tournaments and suddenly there are six on the tour. So the players can't do much. Saina (Nehwal) faced a similar problem. She had issues with her stomach and then she couldn't back off from tournaments because she was defending points. So the pressure mounts. The calendar is tough now. After Thailand, there's a four-week gap and then comes Spain, German, All-England, Swiss, India, Malaysia and Singapore. How to choose among these, I don't understand!" he concluded.

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