BAI: Shuttlers likely to travel to Malaysia via Qatar for Olympic qualifier

The BAI is looking to ensure a smooth travel for the shuttlers via Doha due to travel bans imposed by both the host nations -- Malaysia and Singapore -- owing to a massive surge in COVID-19 cases in India.

Saina Nehwal

Saina Nehwal is currently placed 22nd in the Road to Tokyo rankings. The top 16 shuttlers on the Race to Tokyo list, which will be published on June 15, will earn a direct berth at the Olympics.   -  AP

The Badminton Association of India (BAI) said in a statement on Thursday that top shuttlers, including Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth, are likely to leave for Malaysia and Singapore via Doha to participate in the last two Olympic qualifiers next month.

The BAI is looking to ensure a smooth travel that the shuttlers via Doha due to travel bans imposed by both the host nations owing to a massive surge in COVID-19 cases in India.

Olympic bronze medallist Saina and and former World number one Srikanth are yet to qualify for the Tokyo Games. The duo's chances were dealt with a blow with the postponement of the India Open Super 500 (May 11-16) due to the second wave of the pandemic in India.

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Saina and Srikanth will now bank on the two remaining Olympic qualifiers - Malaysia Open from May 25-30 and the Singapore Open from June 1-6 -- to gather maximum ranking points ahead of the June 15 deadline.

''With the current travel restrictions, Indian players will not be able to take direct flights. We have checked for via routes and the alternatives are either from Sri Lanka or from Doha and Indian shuttlers are most likely to travel via Qatar. BAI has written to the respective Associations of Malaysia and Singapore for clarity on what will be the exact regulations that will be applied to Indian Shuttlers while they arrive in these respective countries," the BAI said in a statement.

As it stands, only PV Sindhu, Sai Praneeth and the doubles team of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy are expected to make the Olympic cut via their superior rankings. Sindhu is ranked 7th, while Prannoy is ranked 13th and Chirag-Satwiksairaj are placed 8th in their respective categories in the Race to Tokyo rankings.

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The top 16 shuttlers as per the Race to Tokyo list to be published on June 15 will earn a direct berth at the Olympics. Saina and Srikanth are placed 22nd and 20th respectively. The doubles team of N Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa is likely participate in the two Olympic qualifiers.

''We have already submitted the travel documents of our Olympic-bound and Olympic Probable players ( PV Sindhu, Sai Praneeth, Chirag Shetty, Satwik, Saina Nehwal, Srikanth, Ashwini Ponnappa, and Sikki Reddy) and officials for Visa processing. Though there is a ban on the issue of Visa for Indians except for Sports-related travel activities, Visa is available on certain terms and conditions. We are in touch with the Member Associations of Malaysia & Singapore for the necessary documentation,'' the BAI said.

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The BAI added that it is in touch with the associations of both nations. "We have also reached out to Malaysian Federation to understand if there are any updated quarantine rules that will be imposed on Indian players. Currently as per the laid-out guidelines, for any Indian to enter Singapore, they have to either be in quarantine in a foreign country other than India for 14 days before they will be allowed to enter Singapore alternatively, all players have to maintain a 21 days quarantine in Singapore. As for Malaysia, for now, there are 14 days quarantine guideline which means, our players have to reach Malaysia on May 10, 2021, to follow the protocols laid out by both countries.''

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