India shuttler Kidambi Srikanth is sceptical of his and other players’ run-up to the Tokyo Olympics now that the Summer Games have been postponed till next year. With BWF cancelling all its tournaments till July end, Srikanth is concerned about the chances of shuttlers having no match form or practice heading into the Tokyo Games and hence, has urged the body to consider rescheduling the cancelled tournaments once the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. Also Read - Badminton's World Junior Championship Cancelled Due to Coronavirus Pandemic
“It is a good decision as it is next to impossible to host the Games given the critical scenario across the world. But, again, I personally feel that the BWF should have a serious mindset, once the situation improves and is deemed fit for any sporting activity, about starting the tournaments which were cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus threat,” Srikanth told Sportstar. Also Read - Judo is a Priority Sport For India: Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju
“I appeal to the Olympics organisers and the BWF to wait before straightaway declaring the next possible dates of the Olympics. There has to be a periodic, critical review of the situation before going ahead with the timeline. the last 12 months you have been tuning your physical and conditioning programme according to the original schedule. Now, you have to reset the goal and plan these programmes accordingly. It is a huge task and a different kind of challenge for any athlete.” Also Read - We Have Identified a Few Areas That Need Fine-Tuning: Midfielder Nilakanta Sharma
Looking back at his career, Srikanth revealed how as a youngster, he felt a lot more assured of his calibre once he joined the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad. From being ranked No. 336 in 2014 to reaching the pinnacle of the BWF rankings in 2018, Srikanth made remarkable strides in those four years.
“Six years before I became No. 1, I remember I was ranked world No. 336. Then, the target was to think of being in the top 300, then in 250, then 200, and so on before aiming for the top 10,” he recalls.
“I travelled to quite a few places after having got hooked to badminton seeing my elder brother play in my hometown, Guntur. Then, things began looking different when I finally settled down at the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad. The first time I got the feeling that I could be there with the best was when I won the 2012 Maldives Open. It was not a major title when you look at the BWF events. But, that was one triumph which gave me the confidence and self-belief that I could move on and on.”
2017 was Srikanth’s most memorable year when he reached five Superseries final, winning four of them. He won in Indonesia, Australia, Denmark and France, becoming only the fourth shuttler in the world to achieve this feat. After securing the No.2 ranking in November of 2017, Srikanth replaced Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen to become World Number 1.
“The year 2017 was the crucial one. For, those 12 months were the best in my career when I won four Super Series (titles),” says the articulate Srikanth. He is the only Indian to do so and join the illustrious band of shuttlers such as Lin Dan, Chen Long and Lee Chong Wei,” he said.
“Well, there were no specific changes in terms of my game. But yes, training under Mulyo (Handoyo), who made us do a few things differently, had a huge impact on my career graph.”
Injuries have played a role in hampering Srikanth’s upward graph. After securing four Super Series titles in a year, the 26-year-old endured a steep downturn due to a career-threatening knee injury. He was forced to withdraw from the China and Korea Opens last year and made just one final on the BWF World Tour – India Open in March. However, currently ranked 12th, Srikanth doesn’t believe it was poor form that shoved him out of Top-10.
” I am unlucky that way. I got injured every time I was on the verge of breaking into the next stage like during the Nagpur nationals in 2017. But, I always tried to be positive. But these injury breaks were a big curse for me and that really dented my performances after being the world No. 1,” he said.
“I don’t believe it was a poor selection of tournaments. It had to do with injuries. See the irony now. I am fit and raring to go. But this dreaded coronavirus has put paid to my dreams of participating in the Tokyo Olympics.”