World No.10 men's doubles badminton player Chirag Shetty received the prestigious Arjuna Award from the Sports Ministry last month along with his doubles partner Satwiksairaj Rankireddy. Both players have performed exceptionally well at the international level.
Shetty and Rankireddy had won the silver medal in the men's doubles badminton event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, while they seized the gold medal in the team event. They also won the Hyderabad Open that year, besides finishing as runners-up at the Syed Modi International.
In 2019, Chirag Shetty and his partner took giant steps in the badminton world as they became the first Indian pair to win the Thailand Open. Soon, they made history again by making it to the finals of the French Open. After entering the Top 10 of the world rankings, the duo has now set their sights on the Olympic medal.
Chirag Shetty recently caught up with Sportskeeda, where he spoke about his Arjuna Award win, his training sessions during the lockdown, and the expectations for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
I don't think Malaysia was expected to get three silver medals at the Rio Olympics 2016: Chirag Shetty
Sportskeeda: Whom do you dedicate this award to?
Chirag Shetty: Well, firstly, I would dedicate this award to my parents. They have sacrificed a lot. Right from the day I started playing badminton, my father, especially, traveled with me for all the tournaments in my junior days. They have given a lot of time for my badminton endeavors. So, I'll dedicate my award to my family.
Sportskeeda: What was the feeling like when you and Satwik saw yourself in the Arjuna Award winners' list?
Chirag Shetty: Well, I was clueless. I didn't know that the awards were going to be announced on that day. After the BAI recommended us in the first week of July, I lost track, and I didn't really know there was going to be a meeting on the 17th or the 18th where they were going to decide the Arjuna Award winners. So, I was pleasantly surprised, and I was extremely happy.
Sportskeeda: When you first teamed up with Satwik, did you believe you will go this far?
Chirag Shetty: Well, I don't know. Like every other badminton player, we dreamed of being in the Top 10, playing at the topmost level, but I didn't know that I would reach the Top 10 so quickly. I had my dreams, but I didn't know for sure that I'll reach that level in 3-4 years. Maybe I would have reached that level after playing tournaments in the Super Series for 5-6 years, but making it to the Top 10 was quite surprising for us as well.
Sportskeeda: What's next for Chirag-Satwik?
Chirag Shetty: There is the Thomas and Uber Cup and the Denmark 1 and Denmark 2 tournaments, followed by the Asian leg of the tournaments. If the tournaments take place, those will be our first tournaments after almost 7-8 months. So, I am looking forward to it.
Sportskeeda: How has it been working with coach Flandy Limpele?
Chirag Shetty: The training under Flandy is a lot more physical, which really helped us improve our physical fitness, and this automatically helped us to last longer into the closing stages of the tournament. We could play the finals and actually perform well without being tired. So, that was a major difference in Flandy's training.
Sportskeeda: How have you been training during the lockdown period?
Chirag Shetty: I started playing in June at the Goregaon Sports Club, which is close to me. I spoke to the local authorities and got permission from them. Since then, I have been training with 2-3 people. We have been following all the necessary SOPs and maintaining social distancing. I have been playing for almost 2-3 months now.
Sportskeeda: How many medals can we expect from the Indian badminton contingent in Tokyo 2021?
Chirag Shetty: From the Indian badminton contingent, I would say, it depends on the day, how well you perform on the given day. I don't think Malaysia was expected to get three silver medals at the Rio Olympics 2016. Maybe Lee Chong Wei's win was expected, but the other two medals were quite unexpected. Still, they delivered, especially in the men's doubles section. They had never played a final before. So, going on to play the Olympics finals directly before playing a Super Series level tournament final was simply unthinkable. So, you never know, you can never write off anybody, and whoever plays well on that day will go on to win the medal. Fingers crossed, hopefully, each department gets us a medal. Every player in our team is playing well, and all are potential medal winners.
After winning the Arjuna Award, the confidence levels of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy should be really high. It will be interesting to see if they can become the first Indian men's doubles pair to win an Olympic medal next year.Published 05 Sep 2020, 18:21 IST