New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) Lack of a system in scheduling tournaments and deficiencies in planning in general over the course of the ongoing Olympic cycle has had an effect on the Indian players’ performances, badminton national coach Pullela Gopichand said on Thursday.
The 46-year-old also admitted that with tournaments getting cancelled due to coronavirus and with just over two months left for the Tokyo 2020 qualification period to end, the Indian badminton contingent is in a tight spot.
“We still have some qualification (tournaments) left so I am hopeful that we achieve as many qualifications as possible,” he said. “But we are in a tight spot with some tournaments getting cancelled and some players on the borderline of making it or not making it. Ideally we would have wanted the maximum numbers going but I don’t think we will be able to achieve those numbers,” Gopichand told IANS on the sidelines of the Times Of India Sports Awards.
The outbreak of coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the qualification calendar for badminton. 2012 Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal and former world no.1 Kidambi Srikanth are both facing uphill battles for qualification and their problems have been compunded by the cancellations.
Gopichand has gone through a number of qualification cycles in the past three decades as a player and as a coach and he said that he has never experienced this level of uncertainty with not just the Olympics but the Asian Games or Commonwealth Games either.
However, he also said that it is in moments like these that it is important to remember that lives are more important than sports. “For us, the Olympics comes after four years. It comes once in a lifetime for most athletes. It’s big and people prepare, plan and train for it,” he said.
“But at the end of the day it is important to understand that life is important and sport is only a part of it. Sometimes in our focus we tend to lose that perspective and it’s incidents like these which remind us that. So if everything goes well then Olympics will happen and everything will be alright. If not the priority is to ensure the safety and the health of the people,” he said.
Gopichand also said that Srikanth and Saina could have used a break between the end of 2018 and early 2019. “I think it was important not from the point of view of injuries but to get back to base training and actually get their foundations stronger and then push the bar,” he said.
“That’s a window we missed. The planning could have been better. Year on year, the lack of a system hurts because we don’t control the scheduling of players tournaments. That is an aspect that definitely needs to be controlled. Hopefully for 2024 (Paris Olympics) we don’t make those mistakes.”
Additionally, Gopichand also said that he hopes there is less dependence on foreign coaches going into the 2024 Olympics and the roster of Indian coaches is made stronger.
“SAI (Sports Authority of India) and BAI (Badminton Association of India) are aware of it and we are working together to ensure that we have a strong setup for the next Games. We have to strengthen our domestic coaches. Our dependence on foreign coaches needs to be reduced. We do need foreign coaches but we can’t have only that. There needs to be a mixture of both,” he said.
Among those who have more or less sealed qualification for Tokyo 2020 are reigning world champion PV Sindhu, World Championship bronze medallist Sai Praneeth and men’s doubles duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. Gopichand said that the extra time they are getting to prepare for the Olympics will serve them well.
Since winning the World Championship title, Sindhu has experienced a slump in form with her best finishes being quarter final finishes at the French Open in September and the Indonesia Masters in January.
However, Sindhu went into the World Championship on the back of a similar poor run of results and her famous silver medal win at the 2016 Rio Olympics was one that was unexpected.
When asked if Sindhu seems to be at her best in big events regardless of what her form is going into it, Gopichand smiled. “That has been the case till now, hope that continues,” he said.
(Rohit Mundayur can be contacted on email@example.com)