PV Sindhu and other Tokyo-hopeful shuttlers take COVID tests

Indian badminton players who started training at the Gopichand academy had to take the COVID-19 tests mandated by SAI.

By Utathya Nag

Rio Olympics silver medallist PV Sindhu, along with three top Indian badminton players underwent COVID-19 tests on Tuesday.

The shuttlers had to take the mandatory tests directed by the Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) Standard Operating Procedure after resuming practice at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad after a four-month-long COVID-enforced break.

The badminton players included former men’s No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth, World Championships bronze medal winner B Sai Praneeth and Commonwealth Games doubles bronze medallist N Sikki Reddy.

Chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand, SAI’s foreign coach Park Tae-Sang, the support staff at the facility and PV Sindhu’s father PV Ramana were also tested.

PV Sindhu and three other Indian players started training at the Pullela Gopichand Academy

“I entered the academy while wearing a mask and the first thing I did after entering was sanitise my hands,” PV Sindhu told the Times of India. “While it’s good to be back on court, it’s also important to maintain social distance and focus on safety.”

Earlier, SAI had invited eight Tokyo Olympics-hopeful Indian badminton players to train at the facility last Friday after acquiring Telangana government’s approvals on August 1.

“It was really good to start training after so many days,” PV Sindhu said. “It was not tough as I was already doing something at home. It was not like everything was new as such. But to fine tune the strokes it may take a few weeks.”

London 2012 bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, women’s doubles specialist Ashwini Ponnappa and men’s doubles pairing - Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy – are also in the eight-member list.

While the four are yet to join the camp, Saina Nehwal, along with husband and fellow Indian badminton player Parupalli Kashyap, has resumed training at a small private facility near the Gopichand academy.

Saina Nehwal is expected to join the SAI training after a couple of weeks.

Measures have been taken at the venue to ensure the safety of the athletes and coaches, who are the only ones allowed on the court.

“It's a big academy, there are about 12 courts, so social distancing is maintained in a good way,” Sikki Reddy told the Sportstar. “Moreover, each player received two barrels of shuttles to use. 

“We carried our own water bottles and hand towels and our equipment was sanitised. The cleaning personnel are only allowed once we finish our training,” Sikki said.

Safety protocols are high on priority after six national hockey players tested positive for the coronavirus in the SAI campus in Bengaluru last week.