Sai Praneeth: Need to create major upsets to realise Olympic medal dream

The champion shuttler said that he is trying to steer clear of any pressure ahead of his maiden Olympics appearance in Tokyo later this month.

Reflecting on the competition in Tokyo, Sai said everyone would be fully fit and raring to go and there is very little to choose among the top 16 players. (FILE PHOTO)   -  K. Murali Kumar

World championship bronze medallist, B. Sai Praneeth, says when the focus is on winning a medal in the Tokyo Olympics, every other issue gets blurred automatically.

“I always believe once you enter a major event, the focus has to be on doing well backed by the right preparations. And, that is what we have been doing with no tournaments for a long time in the run-up to the Olympics,” 28-year-old Sai Praneeth said in a chat with The Hindu.

“I am aware that I need to create one or two major upsets to be able to realise my dream of an Olympic medal” he said.

“Obviously, the focus has been on fitness and I am the kind of a player who if I feel I am fit then I can comfortably play my natural game straight away. That way, I am really pleased with the fitness level going into the Tokyo Games,” he said.

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“Frankly, the preparations gamewise have been the same as they were earlier for any big event. The emphasis, of course, is on all-round improvement,” said the touch artist par excellence.

“There has been a lot of video analysis of my own recent matches and also that of the likely opponents in the Olympics by my coaches Agus Dwi Santoso and Gopi Anna (P. Gopi Chand),” he said.

Reflecting on the competition in Tokyo, Sai said everyone would be fully fit and raring to go and there is very little to choose among the top 16 players. “Each one of them has his own style and strategy. It all depends on how well you execute your gameplan on the given day,” he said. “So, you cannot single out any one or two players as major threats,” he added.

On lack of tournament match-play before the Games, Sai felt it would be the same for everyone and hence the preparations were planned accordingly.

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“Personally, having enough time to train, I could focus on many areas of my game  to be in a much better frame of mind,” he said.

“Well, the pandemic guidelines and restrictions are a bigger torture as India is placed among the high-risk nations for the Games. You can easily sort out anything related to your game on the court. But these restrictions, tests can be a real test,” the  senior official in ONGC said.

On his first Olympics, the champion shuttler said that aspect does play on his mind, but again that he is trying to steer clear of any pressure.

“Once you start thinking too much about it or winning or losing, you can’t play your natural game,” he said. “ I am also not giving too much of a thought to being the only men’s singles player from India in the Olympics. Once you go there, you have to stay focussed and take it day by day,” he said.

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“I do feel that being allowed to train during the three-day isolation and also the scheduled two or three days training is enough for us before the actual competition to get into the groove,” Sai said. “I feel it is better not to go too early into any major event,” he added.

Reflecting on training at Gachibowli Indoor Stadium for the last one month, Sai said it was a good move as the shuttle is very fast in the Gopi Academy and much slower in the bigger indoor stadium.

“With crowds unlikely, the conditions should be similar in Tokyo and that way it was really good to train at an indoor stadium and one month was enough,” he said

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