BENGALURU: After India shuttler B Sai Praneeth learned about the cancellation of the Malaysia and Singapore Open, he decided to take a break around mid-May. The Tokyo-bound athlete, who trains at the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad, decided to spend some time with his family.
It was understandable with no future competitions looming around due to the pandemic. More importantly, it gave him time to recharge his batteries and prepare for the final stretch of his Olympic preparations.
With Tokyo Games less than two months away, the 28-year-old resumed his training at the academy last week and is keen to make each day count with an eye on giving his best at the quadrennial event. Injury has been a concern for him in the past and he is aware he needs to stay fit ahead of the Games. Besides, the pandemic can also make preparation tricky.
"In this (current) situation, practice is very important. These two months are really very crucial. One has to be very careful as the pandemic is also there. You have to remain safe from all this. If you look at training, you have to be fit and also free from injuries. If you have good fitness, that increases your confidence automatically and it can help you play better," said Praneeth, who is looking to take his fitness level a notch higher before he lands in Tokyo.
Set to make his Olympic debut in Tokyo, his preparations are far from ideal. With competitions getting cancelled left and right ever since the outbreak last year, the shuttler has only featured in eight competitions in 2020 and 2021 so far.
Compare that to 18 BWF tournaments Praneeth participated in in 2019. As a result, training sessions become even more significant where he can sharpen his weapons and correct some minor faults before Tokyo under the watchful eyes of Pullela Gopichand and Agus Dwi Santoso.
"Definitely it is a disadvantage. Before the Olympics, there are no competitions to participate in. But, one has to remember that all players are in the same situation. It is not like other players have played and Indian players have not played in any competitions. You cannot just keep thinking about (no competitions). We have to remain positive. I know we are missing those kinds of important match practice in competitions, but I believe all of us will be ready and fit for the Olympics," said Praneeth.
However, one look at his record in the last eight tournaments does not augur well. He has been knocked out in the first round five times. If need be, Praneeth can look at his 2019 World Championship bronze medal as an inspiration to do well at the Olympics.