Extension of Olympic qualification period will help Indian shuttlers: Gopichand

Indian badminton players competed in three tournaments last month and returned empty-handed. Gopichand reckons the extended period will help polish their game.

By Ubaid Parkar

The extension of the Olympic qualification period will only help Indian badminton players prepare better, according to national coach Pullela Gopichand.

On Friday, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) announced that the Tokyo 2020 badminton qualification period will be extended till June 15 -- from the original date of April 25. This was done to accommodate three tournaments that had to be postponed due to COVID-19.

The Malaysia Open (Super 750) is now scheduled to start on May 25 and the Singapore Open (Super 500) is slated for June 1 to conclude the qualification period. The new date for the Malaysia Masters is yet to be determined.

Due to the shift, the Indonesia Masters and the Indonesia Open -- neither offer Olympic ranking points -- have been postponed as well.

“It’s the same for everyone, so from that perspective it’s fine I guess,” Pullela Gopichand told IANS. “It gives players a chance to space out their tournaments, so it is good overall.

“I think all the players would welcome the spacing out of tournaments. It benefits at least our Indian players,” Gopichand pointed out. “It’s good that we have the time in between tournaments to train and prepare better.”

Indian shuttlers haven’t tasted any success since the badminton calendar resumed last month. So far, they have competed at two editions of the Thailand Open in Bangkok, while PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth took part in the BWF World Tour Finals immediately after. All returned empty-handed.

Pullela Gopichand, however, believed it was a bit too early to make assessments about the players’ performances.

“Some have been a bit rusty but some also put in good performances,” Gopichand observed. “Wait for another couple of tournaments before we can get to concrete conclusions.

“There is also the fact that Japan and China — two big countries — did not really participate. It was a depleted field and so we can’t read too much into these results yet. Neither can we read much into the next two tournaments because we might still have a depleted field,” Gopichand added.

Indian badminton players will be in action at the Swiss Open next and will then compete at the All England Open. Both tournaments will be held in March and will mark the start of the qualification period.

Earlier this month, it was announced that the German Open, a Super 300 event scheduled for March, was cancelled due to COVID restrictions.

Initially, the badminton Olympic qualification period was to end with the Indian Open, which will be held from May 11 to 16 in New Delhi.

In the Race to Tokyo rankings as of now, only PV Sindhu and B Sai Praneeth are in contention to qualify for the Games in singles, while Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankirenddy are on course in the doubles.