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Extension of Olympic Qualification Period Good for Players, Says Pullela Gopichand

Pullela Gopichand (PTI)

Pullela Gopichand (PTI)

The announcement of the postponement of the Olympics came in mid-March, 2020, shortly after which the BWF froze its calendar and rankings, including 'Race to Tokyo' Olympic qualification rankings.

Extension of the Olympic qualification period for badminton can only be good for Indian players as it gives them more time in between tournaments, said chief national coach Pullela Gopichand. The Badminton World Federation (BWF) said on Friday that the qualification period for the sport has been extended by about a month to June 15.

“It’s the same for everyone, so from that perspective, it’s fine I guess. It gives players a chance to space out their tournaments, so it is good overall,” Gopichand said.

The extension came after the postponement of the Malaysia Open Super 750 and Singapore Open Super 500 tournaments, both of which are listed as part of the qualification cycle. While the Malaysia Open will take place from May 25 to 30, the Singapore tournament will be held from June 1 to 6.

The Olympic qualification period was earlier scheduled to end with the Indian Open which is currently slated between May 11 and 16 in New Delhi.

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“I think all the players would welcome the spacing out of tournaments. It benefits at least our Indian players. It’s good that we have the time in between tournaments to train and prepare better,” he further said.

The Tokyo Olympics is set to be held from July 23 to August 8 this year after being postponed from its original dates of July 24 to August 9, 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement of the postponement of the Olympics came in mid-March, 2020, shortly after which the BWF froze its calendar and rankings, including ‘Race to Tokyo’ Olympic qualification rankings. While the calendar resumed late last year, tournaments that will come within the Olympic qualification period starts with the Swiss Open to be held from March 2 to 7.

Asked what Gopichand made of the Indian players’ performances at the tournaments thus far, the 47-year-old former All England Open champion said that it remains too early to draw conclusions.

“Some have been a bit rusty but some also put in good performances. It is a bit early to say anything. Wait for another couple of tournaments before we can get to concrete conclusions,” he said.

“There is also the fact that Japan and China — two big countries — did not really participate. It was a depleted field and so we can’t read too much into these results yet. Neither can we read much into the next two tournaments because we might still have a depleted field,” he further said.

Gopichand said that the players and the coaching staff are trying not to concern themselves with changes in the calendar leading up to the Olympics or uncertainty around the Games itself.

“I think for all of us it is important we just take it from where we were last year. We didn’t have any tournaments last year. At least compared to that we have some to play this time. The players will be happy that they are in a space where tournaments are there (for them) to play in,” he said.

“The uncertainty is there but still with the vaccination coming around, the possibility of more tournaments happening in the next few months is higher. So I think a lot more to be positive than negative. Just prepare and hang on, they have done the hard work of staying positive for the last year,” he signed off.

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