P. Gopi Chand: Olympic qualification system needs to be re-examined

It is unfair that the Olympic qualification should last a year long, says Gopi Chand, the chief Indian national coach.

The hectic yearly schedule is compromising the quality of badminton, feels P. Gopi Chand.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

The Olympic qualification for badminton players is “unfair” and puts a lot of strain on the aspirants, according P. Gopi Chand, the chief Indian national coach.

The Olympic qualification period for the Tokyo Olympics begins on April 29, 2019. The Badminton World Federation (BWF) will consider the ranking list, to be published on April 30, 2020, to determine the spots for the Olympics.

Gopi Chand felt the BWF needed to re-examine the qualification system. “I understand it is very important that players earn good amount of money and the prize money goes up but it is also unfair that the Olympic qualification should last a year long. It is something which needs to be looked at,” Gopichand told PTI.

‘Mad rush’

“I think if you win an All England or a World Championship or Asian or European Championship, there is a moment where you could think of direct qualification for these five six slots at least, something like an Olympic quota, rather than spreading it over a year’s time. It just makes a mad rush, travelling across the world. It is a lot of strain and it is making things difficult for players,” he added.

The BWF revamped its structure in 2018. It is now compulsory for the top 15 players of the world — in singles — and the top-10 pairs in doubles to play a minimum of 12 out of 15 tourneys that are World Tours. Otherwise, a penalty will be levied.

The first three months of the new BWF season has already seen injuries to top players such as Carolina Marin, Son Wan Ho and China’s Gao Fangjie. Gopi Chand blamed the new BWF calendar for causing burnout and injuries to players. “I think the number of tournaments is definitely affecting the players, somewhere we are compromising the quality of badminton,” he said.

‘Highly-competitive sport’

“I definitely think as a sport we are a highly competitive sport and adding on tournaments in a calender only makes it tougher for the players. If you look at the last five weeks, it has been crazy. We started with German, All England, Swiss and then Asian championship, then India, Malaysia, Singapore, back-to-back week after week, to endure so many number of tournaments involves too much planning, too [many] resources,” Gopichand added.

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He hoped the BWF should ensure the quality of badminton went up. “I am sure the BWF can do better to ensure that the players are lasting longer and the quality of badminton is going higher. But the way things are right now, it is just causing too much burn out and injuries,” he reiterated.

‘Tough year’ ahead

Commenting on India’s preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, Gopi Chand said, “It is going to be a tough year again. The Olympic qualification has its own challenges. I think it is important to be physically fit and mentally charged up to produce results. Hopefully by the end of the year players can seal their qualification, it gives us the chance to prepare for the actual event rather than piling up too much pressure at the end of the period. There are many factors but ideally by January or February if they can comfortably be inside top 16 that would be important.”

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In the Olympics, Gopi Chand felt there will be a new set of winners. “I think there is already a change of guard. I don’t think Lin Dan can dominate how he did. It is unfortunate for Lee Chong Wei; he has the game and I hope he recovers and can come back. But I feel Kento Momota, [Anthony Sinisuka] Ginting, [and] Viktor [Axelsen] has done well and the next generation has shaped up well,” Gopichand said.