Like a true professional, Mathias Boe is optimistic about the prospects of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy at the Tokyo Olympics. The Indian men’s doubles pair of Chirag and Satwik were handed a tough draw but the Danish badminton doubles legend is not too worried about it.
Mathias Boe, who celebrated his 41st birthday last week with a lunch date with his girlfriend and Bollywood actress Taapsee Pannu, is the doubles coach of the Indian team. The former World No. 1 in the men’s doubles, Boe and his Danish partner Carsten Mogensen have been coaching the Indian pair of Chirag and Satwik since January 2021.
The Badminton Association of India (BAI) hired the services of Boe on contract until the Tokyo Olympics. The southpaw Boe, a silver medalist at the 2012 London Olympics, is India's second specialist doubles coach from a foreign country after Tan Kim Her. The Malaysian was India's first professional doubles coach during the 2015-2019 period. The pair of Chirag and Satwik were initially guided by Tan Kim Her.
According to Boe, the pair of Chirag and Satwik have hardly played any tournaments in the last seven months due to the raging pandemic, and it has only been 'practice and practice'. Boe would have liked Chirag and Satwik to play some tournaments before a major competition like the Olympics but, he said, the situation is the same for everyone.
Mathias Boe believes Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj will have to give their best in a tough group
Boe believes Chirag and Satwiksairaj will have to really give their best if they want to make the cut for the knock-outs. The men’s doubles Group A consists of world No. 1 Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon of Indonesia and world No. 3 pair Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin of Chinese Taipei. It also has world No. 18 duo Ben Lane and Sean Vendy of England.
The former world No. 7 combination of Chirag and Satwiksairaj will take on Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin in their opening Group A match on July 24.
Sixteen pairs have been equally divided into four groups. Only the top two teams from each group will qualify for the quarter-finals.
Boe, who did not force his European style of play on the Indians, said the boys were well prepared and ready for the big challenge. He added that the homework has been done well and it’s time for the final examination.
Here are excerpts from the exclusive interview of Boe:
Q: How are the preparations going for the Tokyo Olympics?
A: I feel it has been good. It’s been many weeks for the boys just to practice, as normally we would have more tournaments before a big event. They have worked very hard. So I will say the homework has been done well.
Q: Are you satisfied with the way Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy are responding to your coaching?
A: They have received my inputs with open arms. I haven’t tried to force them to play a certain style. They have to play their style and we have worked on adding a few things to it.
Q: Chirag and Satwik are drawn in Group A, which also has the world No. 1 pair and the world No. 3 pair. How would you rate the chances of the Indian boys?
A: It is a tough group, obviously, but also a group where anything can happen. We are traveling to Tokyo with the goal of playing as close to our best as possible. We know we can beat all the pairs, and we also know we can lose to all of them. So it’s about enjoying each and every minute we have on court.
Q: This is your first Olympics as a coach. Chirag and Satwik are also competing in their maiden Olympics. Are you guys a little nervous?
A: Yes, we will be nervous. If not, we are not human. But it’s about having some tools to reduce nerves when it happens. Sports at this level is mostly mental.
Q: Your contract is only till the Tokyo Olympics. Given the opportunity, are you planning to extend your contract with BAI?
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A: Right now, all my focus is on the Olympics and trying to help all the Indian players perform at their best.