BAI pushing for personal coaches' inclusion during Olympics

Badminton federation working on providing Paris participants the necessary platform for maximum output
Two-time medallist PV Sindhu is once again expected to garner keen interest during the Paris Games
Two-time medallist PV Sindhu is once again expected to garner keen interest during the Paris Games(File photo)

CHENNAI: 2012: 1 bronze. 2016: 1 silver. 2020: 1 bronze. 2024: ?. Indian shuttlers will be hopeful of maintaining the country's habit of returning with a medal from the Olympics.

PV Sindhu, Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy will be leading India's bid in the singles while Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty (men's) and Tanisha Crasto/Ashwini Ponnappa (women's) will be trying to script history in the doubles. The Badminton Association of India (BAI) is hoping that the shuttlers can raise the bar in the upcoming Paris Games.

"This is the Olympics and the players are bound to be under some form of pressure. But the players are doing what they can. I believe we should get two to three medals at least," Sanjay Mishra, BAI secretary general, said.
With that objective in mind, BAI is hopeful of sending all the personal coaches/physios as per their individual requirements to Paris.

There are generally restrictions in regards to the number of support staff at the Olympic Village. In a sport where the margins are fine, that could be a massive boost for the shuttlers. Coaches generally tend to be the third eye, the unsung heroes who help players problem-solve even during tense matches apart from regular training and guidance.

"With the help of SAI and IOA, we are looking to try and get them personal coaches/physios to travel to Paris. And things are looking positive in that regard," Mishra revealed.

Sindhu trains under Agus Dwi Santoso while Prannoy has been taking RMV Gurusaidutt's help. Lakshya Sen could get U Vimal Kumar. Satwik and Chirag have been training under Mathias Boe for a while. Tanisha and Ashwini will get the guidance of Pullela Gopichand, who's set to travel as chief coach.

Sindhu, the winner of two aforementioned Olympic medals, is again expected to garner keen interest. However, the 28-year-old has not hit the standards she is used to in recent times. After her return from injury, she toiled a bit before showing some signs of improvements during the Malaysia Masters in May.

But she was knocked out in the very first round in her last event — Indonesia Open. There are genuine question issues but Sindhu has time and again shown that she can never be written off.

Mishra thinks likewise. "Sindhu is doing very well. After her comeback from injury, she had faced a little bit of a problem but now she seems to be fine. She's a two-time Olympic medallist. She won't have as much pressure as she has already handled the same in the past. We are expecting a third medal from her but there's no pressure on her. She is someone who can rise to the occasion anytime and we're hopeful that she'll have a good campaign."

Satwik and Chirag, on the other hand, have had an organic rise to the top in the last few years or so. Moreover, they had won their second French Open title earlier this year, a massive outcome as the Olympic event will be held at the same venue. However, playing regularly at the high-level has taken a toll on them as well.  

"The top-10 in the men's doubles section is almost equal. It is a very tough competition. They have had injury issues and that is part of the game. However, one must take note that even if the players are 5 per cent down, that can make a massive difference. Now they are fit and doing well. But the Olympics, it goes without saying, are huge. Events like the Olympics and the All England Championships are all about handling pressure. If they can do that, they can surely return with a medal," Mishra noted.

Prannoy lost in the quarterfinals of the ongoing Australian Open on Friday. After a productive 2023, which helped him make the cut for the Olympics, results have been hard to come by for him this year. Lakshya, after a tough start to the year, has also applied his 'never give up' mantra to come up with some notable results — most notable being his run in Match (He reached back-to-back semis at the French Open and the All England Championships).

Ashwini and Tanisha, having pipped the other women's doubles pair of Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly for Olympic qualification, will also be looking to make their chance count. "Prannoy has also proved himself in the last few years or so. Ashwini and Tanisha, on their day, also have the potential to upset any top rivals. We are quite hopeful."

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