Paris 2024: Resurgent Sindhu in line for third Olympics medal

Seven shuttlers, including doubles pair of Chirag-Satwik, confirm quota places

P.V. Sindhu in action (file photo)
P.V. Sindhu in action (file photo)

NH Sports Bureau

Come the Paris Olympics, and P.V. Sindhu will be in line to be the first Indian athlete to claim three individual medals in as many Games when she leads a seven-member badminton squad in the greatest show on earth. The Indian shuttlers have confirmed five quota places — three singles and two doubles — fielding their joint-largest team this time.

The Race to Paris Ranking List, published by BWF (Badminton World Federation) on the cut-off date of 30 April, shows Sindhu, H.S. Prannoy and Lakshya Sen, both World Championship medallists, making the cut in singles. A silver medallist in Rio 2016 and bronze in Tokyo 2020, Sindhu finished 12th in the rankings while Prannoy was ninth on the men’s list and Sen 13th.

In doubles, India secured the remaining two quotas with world no. 1 pair Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy finishing in third spot in men’s doubles and Ashwini Ponappa and Tanisha Crasto finishing 13th in women’s doubles.

Now 28, Sindhu’s journey over the last three years from Tokyo to Paris was certainly her toughest as she was beset with multiple injuries, prolonged spells of poor form, and self-doubt. She had overhauled her complete coaching staff a number of times since her first Olympic medal — from Gopichand to Prakash Padukone — via Park Tae Sang, Vidhi Chaudhary, Hafiz Hashim and Agus Santoso.

Last year, Sindhu and her entourage had moved to Bengaluru to train at the Prakash Padukone Centre of Excellence, and she has rediscovered her attacking instincts once again.

Speaking on the sidelines of an event in Kolkata in early March when the Race to Paris was in its home stretch, national chief coach Gopichand was ready to put his money on Sindhu and the Chirag-Satwik combination for medals.

‘’Sindhu definitely has good competition against players like An Se Young (Korean world No.1), Chen Yu Fei (Chinese no. 2) or Akane Yamaguchi (Japan’s world no. 4). But she has delivered in the past and has the potential to deliver this time around in Paris as well,’’ the man credited with spawning the badminton revolution in India said.

Asked to comment on the crack men’s doubles pair of Satwik-Chirag, the former All England champion was unequivocal in rating them as favourites for gold. ‘’It would be fair to say that as the world no. 1 pair today, they are definitely a prospect to win at the highest level. They are a solid pair, whenever they step on the court, they are one of the favourites,’’ Gopichand said.

Players in the top 16 (up to two per country) of the men’s and women’s Race to Paris Rankings secure a spot for their national teams for the Olympics. In the doubles, two quota places (for four athletes) are awarded to the National Olympic Committees who have two or more pairs ranked inside the top eight and one quota place (for two athletes) if only one pair is ranked in the top 16. A total of 16 pairs qualified in each of the doubles events through the Paris rankings list.

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