Asian Games 2022: Unnati Hooda, at 14, becomes youngest badminton player to make Indian squad

Indian squads for Commonwealth Games, Thomas and Uber Cups were also announced by the BAI after the selection trials in New Delhi. 

By Ali Asgar Nalwala
Picture by Badminton Association of India

Unnati Hooda, 14, made history after becoming the youngest Indian badminton player to be selected for the Asian Games.

The Rohtak-based shuttler made the cut for the Indian badminton squads for this year’s Asian Games and Uber Cup after finishing third at the selection trials, behind Aakarshi Kashyap, 20, and Ashmita Chaliha, 22.

The national trials were conducted by the Badminton Association of India at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Stadium.

This is not the first time Unnati Hooda has grabbed the spotlight in her short senior career. In January, Unnati Hooda upset more experienced opponents, including pre-tournament favourite Malvika Bansod, to clinch the Odisha Open title.

The Odisha Open victory made Unnati Hooda, who had finished second on her seniors’ debut at India International Challenge in October last year, the youngest Indian to win a BWF Super 100 event.

Apart from Unnati Hooda, All England Open women’s doubles semi-finalists Gayatri Gopichand, 19, and Treesa Jolly, 18, were the other Indian youngsters who made the Indian squad for the Asian and Commonwealth Games as well as the Uber Cup. Gayatri Gopichand is the daughter of Indian badminton legend Pullela Gopichand.

Priyanshu Rajawat, 20, topped the men’s singles selection trials and made the Indian team for the Asian Games and Thomas Cup.

Top Indian badminton players like PV Sindhu, Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy were granted direct entries in all the tournaments courtesy of their world badminton rankings.

HS Prannoy, meanwhile, was allowed a direct slot based on his recent form and didn’t need to participate in the trials.

London Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, the world No. 23, did not compete at the trials due to fatigue and hasn’t been named in any of the squads.

While the Asian Games and Thomas and Uber Cup contingents have 20 members each, 10 men and 10 women, the Commonwealth Games squad consists of five men’s and five women’s players.

N Sikki Reddy, who made the cut with women’s doubles partner Ashwini Ponnappa, sustained an injury during the trials and is expected to miss the Uber Cup.

The BAI will be announcing her replacement for the Uber Cup but the Indian shuttler is expected to be fit for the Asian Games.

Overall 120 players had competed in the league-based selection trials in New Delhi.

Indian badminton team for Thomas & Uber Cups 2022

Men: Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy, Priyanshu Rajawat, Chirag Shetty, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Dhruv Kapila, MR Arjun, Vishnu Vardhan Goud, Krishna Prasad Garaga

Women: PV Sindhu, Aakarshi Kashyap, Ashmita Chaliha, Unnati Hooda, Treesa Jolly, Gayatri Gopichand, Simran Singh, Ritika Thakkar, Tanisha Crasto, Shruti Mishra

Indian badminton team for Commonwealth Games 2022

Men: Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty and B Sumeeth Reddy

Women: PV Sindhu, Aakarshi Kashyap, Treesa Jolly, Gayatri Gopichand, Ashwini Ponappa

Indian badminton team for Asian Games 2022

Men: Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy, Priyanshu Rajawat, Chirag Shetty, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Dhruv Kapila, MR Arjun, Vishnu Vardhan Goud, Krishna Prasad Garaga

Women: PV Sindhu, Aakarshi Kashyap, Ashmita Chaliha, Unnati Hooda, Treesa Jolly, Gayatri Gopichand, N Sikki Reddy (subject to fitness), Ashwini Ponappa, Tanisha Crasto and Shruti Mishra.

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