What's the story?
Chief National Coach for the Indian badminton team and former player, Pullela Gopichand has expressed that a lack of a proper system in scheduling tournaments in the ongoing Olympic cycle has affected the performances of top Indian players, specifically Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth.
There have been planning deficiencies in scheduling tournaments during the Olympic cycle. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic becoming a cause of wide concern, there are a lot of international sporting events, including badminton tournaments, that are in limbo. This has put the Indian contingent in a tight spot, especially players such as Srikanth and Nehwal who are to give it one last push in order to secure a ticket to Tokyo.
The two experienced Indian players are currently facing uphill battles in a bid to make it to the top 16 players in the 'Race to Tokyo' rankings.
The heart of the matter
Speaking on the matter, 46-year-old veteran coach Gopichand told IANS:
"We still have some qualification (tournaments) left so I am hopeful that we achieve as many qualifications as possible. 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."
The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee has been through multiple qualification cycles and experienced them first hand - both as a player and as a coach. However, the current level of uncertainty is something that he has never seen before.
"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. 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 its incidents like these which remind us that. So if everything goes well then the Olympics will happen and everything will be alright. If not the priority is to ensure the safety and the health of the people."
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Speaking on the shortcomings in the planning of tournaments, and how Srikanth and Nehwal could have been given a break at the end of 2018 as well as early 2019, Gopichand 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."
The BAI (Badminton Association of India) and the SAI (Sports Authority of India) are also working together to ensure that the dependency on foreign coaches is less for the 2024 Olympics. Eventually, the aim is to have a good mix of both domestic and foreign coaches.