New Delhi - Deserving athletes have sometimes failed to make it to the Olympics and others have found themselves there by quirk of fate. India’s badminton star Parupalli Kashyap is one of those to qualify for the London Games following an unexpected twist and he thanks his stars for it.
There is that famous instance of legendary American Jesse Owens making history at the Berlin Olympics when many thought his fellow-sprinter Eulace Peacock, a greater athlete, would take the event by storm but could not make it after pulling a thigh muscle in 1936.
Kashyap, similarly, has a chance to etch his name in the history books while his compatriot Ajay Jayaram, who should have qualified by virtue of his superior ranking, is cooling heels back home in Mumbai.
Kashyap, now ranked 21 in the world, was four rungs below the 27 ranked Jayaram when the Indian Open, the last tournament before the London cut-off date May 3, got under way here in the national capital.
Kashyap, the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, went into the Super Series tournament with over 1,000 points behind Jayaram and needed to win at least two rounds more than Jayaram to pip him at the post for the lone Olympic berth from India.
As luck would have it, Jayaram lost his second round match to current World No.2 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia while Kashyap qualified for the semi-finals after former world champion Chen Jin of China pulled out of his quarter-final match, citing a wrist injury.
Chen apparently lost interest once he himself made it to London overtaking another former world No. 1, Peter Gade, and that did a good turn to Kashyap, giving him valuable points to leave Jayaram stunned.
Kashyap says he would have preferred to go to the Olympics on his own steam and feels sorry for Jayaram.
“Jayaram is a great competitor but I peaked at the right time. I would have liked to go to the Olympics on my own rather than the way I did, but I take it. This is a dream come true for me,” Kashyap told IANS Tuesday before leaving for London.
“Rankings make a lot of sense for deserving players. I did well at the right time and qualified. But it’s not that I did badly before and did well in the end. I have been doing well consistently and yes towards the end I did get a little lucky,” said Kashyap.
Kashyap had the difficult task of doing well in the last two qualifying tournaments — the Asian Badminton Championships (ABC) and the India Open Super Series — to upstage Jayaram.
Jayaram kept his nose ahead by winning one round more than Kashyap at the ABC where the Hyderabadi was unlucky to run into World No.3 Chen Long of China in the first round and lost.
Free from qualification tension, Kashyap showed his class at the Indonesian Open by avenging the ABC defeat by knocking out Chen to reach the semis of a Super Series Premier for the first time in his career.
The rising star said once the burden of qualifying for the Olympics was off his back, he played freely without any pressure in Jakarta.
“I was very relaxed before the tournament and was mentally prepared. I had qualified for the Olympics so I was under no pressure. I hope to take that confidence to London and play as freely.”
Talking about breaking the Chinese barrier that stands between him and a medal in London, Kashyap says it is very difficult to get past the Chinese.
“Chinese have a lot of variety, there is a production line of great players coming from there. I would have to tackle them each differently and I will try my best.”
The Hyderabadi said his aim was to reach the top 10 in the world and for that he needed to work on certain things.
“I am coming into form at the right time and my first aim is to reach the top 10. For that I need to focus on my fitness and I need to play longer rallies.”
Kashyap credited Saina Nehwal for the turnaround of fortunes in Indian badminton.
“Saina has changed the face of badminton in India. A lot of credit needs to go to her for the growth of the sport,” he said.