Gopi expects seven shuttlers for Rio

India badminton coach Pullela Gopi Chand, is hoping two entries in the women singles, one each in women doubles and men doubles, apart from one in men singles, to form the Indian challenge for the Rio Olympics later in the year.

Gopi Chand: "At present, everyone is a bit tense while chasing ranking points."   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

With the cut-off date of May 5 for ensuring a berth for the Rio Olympics in sight, the Indian badminton players are focussed on the job ahead. Chief coach P. Gopi Chand, guarded as ever, is hoping two entries in the women singles, one each in women doubles and men doubles, apart from one in men singles, to form the Indian challenge.

“Some of the players will have to maintain their current position in the world rankings while some other need to perform better this month to be part of the draw in Rio,” said Gopi, speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing National badminton championship that he inaugurated on Wednesday morning.

“It is too early to assess the form of the players going to the Olympics. After one-and-a-half months of training just before the Games, the players are going to look different. At present, everyone is a bit tense while chasing ranking points,” he said.

Overworked

When asked for his views on the first-round exit of the Indian men in the last week’s India Open in New Delhi, Gopi said, “That did not come as a surprise. After all, the players have been busy since January. From playing the Premier Badminton League, the Syed Modi Grand Prix and the South Asian Games before going on to play in different continents, in different time-zones. It is not easy.”

But knowing the energy-sapping schedule, why did he not reduce the participation the players in these events? To which, following a pause, Gopi said, “I would rather not answer this question.”

Looking ahead to Rio, Gopi said, “since Rio is at sea-level, the shuttle will be slow and one should be ready for longer rallies. I would prefer at least 10 days in Rio for the players to get acclimatised. Since it will be difficult to find practice-partners in Rio, we will have to see whether we can fund a couple of players and take them along to give our qualified players some useful practice.”

Talking of singles, Gopi said, “Only Srikanth has a realistic chance (among men). P. Kashyap is not fit and expected to resume training after two weeks. H. S. Prannoy needs to defend points in the coming weeks. He requires at least two semifinal-appearances (out of three tournaments) to not only defend the points earned last year but also to enhance his current tally. That seems pretty tough.”

Assuming that Saina Nehwal and P. V. Sindhu would make the ‘cut’, Gopi was also hopeful of G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa being among the qualifiers, much like the men doubles pair of Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy.