Updated March 5th, 2024 at 13:33 IST

'It will definitely be...': Gopichand makes BIG prediction for India's medal count at Paris Olympics

Chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand on Monday singled out world number one doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty as favourites for an Olympic medal.

Pullela Gopichand | Image:PTI
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Chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand on Monday singled out world number one doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty as favourites for an Olympic medal and said two-time medallist PV Sindhu too is on the right path and can deliver once again at the Paris Games.

Returning after a long injury layoff, double Olympic medalist Sindhu led India’s women’s team to a historic gold at the Badminton Asia Team Championships.

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Satwik and Chirag, on the other hand, have been on a dream run with successive runner-up finishes in 2023 China Open and Malaysia Open Super 1000 and India Open Super 750 this season to emerge as the world No 1 doubles pair.

“It would be fair to say that, as the world number ones today, they are definitely a prospect to win at the highest level,” Gopichand said at the announcement of ‘Revsportz Sports Conclave’ at Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club.

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“They are a solid pair; whenever they step on the court, they are one of the favorites. Months away, today, if I have to pick across sports, across countries, any one pair which is the pair to beat at the Olympics, it will have to be Satwik and Chirag.” Asked about India’s total medals’ count in Paris, he said: “It’s elections time, so everyone is guessing big. But I won’t give a number, I think it will definitely be more than what we had last time.” 

Sindhu can win her third at Paris 

Playing her first match in four months at BATC in February since retiring in the second round of the French Open in October due to an injury, World No. 11 Sindhu beat Han Yue of China, Lo Sin Yan Happy of Hong Kong and Supanida Katethong of Thailand to help India win the gold at BATC.

“I’m definitely with Sindhu. Here is someone who has performed well in the past. I do believe that she is on the right track. The next few months will be crucial,” he said.

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“She had lost to Supanida (Katethong) previously, so beating her in the final was a significant victory.” Sindhu will be seen in action next at the French Open Super 750 beginning on Tuesday.

“I’m confident that she played well in the BWF Asia Team Championships, and in the upcoming tournaments, whether in France, All England, or the Asian Championships, she will face higher-ranked players. Nevertheless, I am convinced that she is in good form.

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How realistic is her chance of winning a medal at Paris? “She certainly faces tough competition against players like Korean world number 1 An Se Young, Chinese number 2 Chen Yu Fei, or Japan’s world number 4 Akane Yamaguchi.

“However, she has proven herself in the past, and I believe she has the potential to deliver again in Paris.

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“If you look at her game, it’s very physical. In slow conditions where physicality becomes crucial, she has consistently delivered. Big stadiums typically have a physical element, and that’s when Sindhu tends to perform even better.” As for the NextGen badminton players, Gopichand pinned strong hopes on Anmol Kharb and Priyanshu Rajawat.

“Anmol is one of the brightest. The way she played at the Asian Championships, defeating players from China, Thailand, and Japan at crucial junctures, bodes well for Indian badminton. In men’s there is the likes of Priyanshu Rajawat.” Former world No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth has slipped to World No. 24 but Gopichand believes there’s nothing wrong in his work ethics.

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“He’s been working really hard, so I can’t really say there’s a problem in his work ethic. However, people have analysed him extensively; they understand the type of game he plays. He has to figure out new ways, and he’s putting in the effort. Kashyap is helping him,” Gopichand said.

Impressed with the natural talents from the region, Gopichand also has hopes that players from Bengal will come up the ranks once again.

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“In general, Bengal, particularly in this region, has individuals with strong legs who move very quickly, and their stroke-making is quite interesting. It comes very effortlessly to players here, who are naturally adept movers on the court. From that perspective, with decent infrastructure and a good coaching system, you will start producing champions,” he concluded. 

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Published March 4th, 2024 at 23:51 IST