Silver medalist at Rio 2016, PV Sindhu is one of the Indian contingent's remaining medal hopes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Former Olympian Parupalli Kashyap believes she will carry the hopes of a million Indians while shouldering the tremendous pressure that comes with the responsibility.
Kashyap, who scripted history as the first Indian male shuttler to reach the quarter-finals of a Summer Games (London 2012), is one of the few high-profile badminton stars who missed the cut for Tokyo 2020.
In an exclusive chat with SportsAdda, the 34-year-old former Olympian rued missing out on Tokyo 2020 and bemoaned the Badminton World Federation’s poor execution of qualification events for Tokyo 2020.
“When the (Tokyo 2020 Olympics) qualifications started in May 2019, everything was fine until December-January when we played a couple of events. The last leg of the qualifying tournament, which is the most crucial stretch where we have almost seven tournaments; everything started getting cancelled,” Kashyap said.
Parupalli Kashyap feels he along with his superstar wife and Olympic medalist Saina Nehwal as well as fellow shuttler Srikanth Kidambi were let down by the poor organization of badminton qualifying tournaments for Tokyo 2020.
“I would probably criticise the Badminton World Federation for poor planning. They could have chosen one particular location like Europe and conducted a couple of events continuously there,” he asserted.
“They could have done it in a bio-bubble secure environment, but they just announced events in India, Singapore, Malaysia, etc., and then the second wave (of COVID-19) happened and everything just kept getting cancelled one after another,” Kashyap added.
Sai Praneeth, India’s representative in the men’s singles event, will play his final group stage game on Wednesday with the hope of ending his Tokyo 2020 campaign on a positive note despite failing to qualify for the next round.
Parupalli Kashyap believes while Praneeth let the pressure get to him in the 17-21, 15-21 defeat to Israel’s Misha Zilberman in his first match, the 28-year-old is a better player than he’s shown so far at Tokyo.
“Sai Praneeth has been a consistent performer for the last 4-5 years and has been in the top 25 of the world rankings since 2015 and has been consistently performing at that level. This Olympics was the first major event for him. Probably, the nerves got to him,” Kashyap said.
“The opponent’s game plan was quite good and he is a tricky opponent. I thought Sai was not up to his game from the start and after losing the first set, he felt a little more pressure. He is a much better player than what people saw and he just has to give his best in the second match and forget about what happened,” the 34-year-old added.
However, PV Sindhu, one of India’s top medal hopefuls for Tokyo 2020, will look to advance to the pre-quarter-finals when she faces China’s Cheung Ngan Yi and Kashyap believes that the Rio 2016 silver medalist’s upcoming performance on Wednesday will set the rhythm for her future matches in the Summer Games.
“When you are the favourite, the pressure is 100x. The first round PV Sindhu won was not an equal fight, she was just testing the conditions and it will be interesting to see how she will perform in the next match. The next round will give her the rhythm to go into the next matches,” Kashyap said.
Someone who has dealt with pressure on a similar platform himself, Kashyap highlighted that tight duels could bring out the positives in a player.
“It doesn’t matter how she (PV Sindhu) wins. Be it a close match or not, there are going to be positives. Sometimes, a tight encounter opens you up mentally because then you are prepared for any situation in the next round,” he said.
“Sometimes when you win easily, it gives you situations where you are feeling very pumped up for the next match or you’ve not had a fight and suddenly you are not ready for a fight,” Kashyap added.
Featured photo: BAI media