Coronavirus: Players put at risk by BWF, say top shuttlers

International stars, including Saina Nehwal, K. Srikanth and Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, ask the BWF to suspend all its upcoming tournaments.

Hans-Kristian Vittinghus: “Why are we so special, that we should just keep on going? We’re not.”   -  AFP

Top shuttlers from across the world have hit out at the Badminton World Federation (BWF) for taking the novel coronavirus outbreak “too lightly” and putting them at “risk” by going ahead with international tournaments. The coronavirus outbreak, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday, has led to nearly 5,000 deaths globally.

It has also badly affected the sporting calendar, with several events across the world being either postponed or cancelled.

International stars, including Saina Nehwal, K. Srikanth and Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, a former World No. 8, asked the BWF to suspend all its upcoming tournaments. “I honestly don’t get it! We should not be travelling the world playing badminton,” Denmark’s Vittinghus said in a post which he has shared on his social media accounts. He urged the BWF to follow other sporting federations in suspending the events.

Risky

Vittinghus wrote: “With some tournaments being played, while others are being cancelled, and the Olympic qualifying year still ongoing, players are left with choices between risking not only their own health, but also the health of the ones around them. Or giving up on tournaments, that others choose to play, risking to lose out on not only the Olympics, but also ranking spots that gives access to all the other big events. We should not be put in this position.”

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Vittinghus’s post was retweeted by the likes of Saina, Srikanth, P. Kashyap, H. S. Prannoy and Spanish national coach Fernando Rivas. “I don’t get it too @bwfmedia #CoronavirusPandemic,” tweeted Saina, a former World No. 1, who is currently in Birmingham for the All England Championships.

 

Srikanth, too, echoed similar voices. “I agree with you (Vittinghus) and @bwfmedia should think about players safety,” he wrote.

Kashyap, who is also in Birmingham, tweeted: “Please Wake Up! @bwfmedia.”

‘We’re not special’

Ajay Jayaram, a former World No. 13, also took to Twitter to express his concerns. “I really think @bwfmedia should reconsider holding off international tournaments until the situation settles. They seem to be taking this too lightly. At the very least, I hope the fines, if players withdraw are waived off considering the circumstance,” he wrote.

The world body has so far maintained that it has no plans to make any adjustments to the regulations related to the Tokyo Games qualification period and that other events will go as per schedule. Vittinghus wrote on his Facebook page: “I understand it’s [very] complicated suspending all play with all the many stakeholders for each and every event there is, but should the world of badminton not take the same responsibility upon us as the rest of the [sporting] world? Why are we so special, that we should just keep on going? We’re not.”

 

“I LOVE badminton, but sport is irrelevant at the moment — the wellbeing of the athletes, coaches and other staff is relevant.”

‘Unfair playing field’

The 34-year-old urged the BWF to suspend all international events immediately. “It’s a very unfair playing field at the moment. You can’t know which tournaments to enter as you don’t know which ones are safe [if any] and you can’t know which ones will be played and which ones gets cancelled,” he wrote.

“I strongly urge BWF and the continental federations to show strong leadership in this extraordinary situation and SUSPEND all international badminton immediately. I understand it’s a difficult decision, but if others can do it, why can’t we? We have as big a responsibility in this global crisis, as anyone else. We need to take it upon us.”

Danish doubles player Mads Conrad-Petersen had also taken to Twitter to express his concerns. “156 cases in Denmark now. Numbers flying up. Tough to keep focus on the sport. More important things in the world. Don’t underestimate the situation BWF,” he had tweeted a few days back.

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