New Delhi: An unprecedented seven Indian shuttlers are set to qualify for the Olympics Games at Rio de Janeiro when the official BWF rankings are released on Thursday.
The cut-off date for BWF rankings is May 5, the day will be used to allocate 34 individual quota places for men and 34 individual quota places for women to the highest ranked athletes in singles event.
London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, who is currently at the 7th place in the race to Rio qualification, will play her third Olympic Games, while P V Sindhu, who is at 9th position, will be the second Indian player in women's singles competition at Rio.
In men's singles, 2014 China Open winner Kidambi Srikanth, who is at 10th place in Race to Rio qualification, will carry the Indian flag, while Manu Attri and B Summeth Reddy will become the first Indian men's doubles pair to qualify for the Games. The World No. 19 pair are ranked 11th in Race to Rio qualification.
Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, who had represented India at the London Games, will play their second Olympics in women's doubles competition. They are 9th in the Race to Rio qualification.
However, no Indian pair was good enough to qualify in the mixed doubles event, while Parupalli Kashyap was all set to qualify before a series of injuries robbed him off a chance to play in Olympics for the second time.
Five Indians had qualified for the London Olympics in 2012.
Though the official ranking, which will also consider the ranking points from Asia Championship, will only be out on Thursday, it didn't stop the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and a couple of Rio-bound shuttlers to express their excitement on social networking sites.
"Congratulations @srikidambi @Guttajwala @NSaina @P9Ashwini @AtriManu @Pvsindhu1 and sumeeth reddy on Rio qualification. Best wishes!!," SAI wrote on its official Twitter handle.
— SAIMedia (@Media_SAI) May 3, 2016
One half of the 2010 Commonwealth Games champions, Jwala wrote on Facebook: "We made it... Now for the next step..medal finish."
"I want to thank the fans.. the support and love u gave us..I couldn't have asked for more!! Want to thank the Government of India for funding the Indian team and help us achieve this magnificent feat!!
"And last but not the least Olympic Gold Quest the support u gave us at the right time..." Jwala, who has got a tattoo of 2012 London Olympics on her back, also wrote: "Super super excited ... and time to add the year 2016 on my back."
Manu said: "It's really great to know that we've booked our berth in RIO OLYMPICS 2016..First ever Indian men doubles pair to qualify for the Olympic Games.
"I would like to thank to all my coaches, my parents, support staff and all my friends ... I think it wouldn't have been possible without you all,the motivation you've given me to achieve my goal was like absolutely amazing," he wrote.
If the euphoria is kept aside, it will be an uphill task for the Indian contingent to return with a medal from Rio if their recent performances are any indicator.
Only Saina has been consistently reaching the semifinals of the recent events and remains India's biggest hope at the Olympics, rest of the Indians haven't shown much promise, making early exits in international tournaments.
Srikanth, who won the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold, has not cleared the opening round in the last five tournaments and has slipped from World No. 3 to 11 in the last BWF ranking on April 28th.
Two-time bronze medallist at World Championship, Sindhu, who won the Malaysia Masters earlier this year, lost in the second round of the last six events, starting with Swiss Open.
Manu and Sumeeth, who had reached the finals of US Open Grand Prix Gold and won the Mexico Open Grand Prix last year, haven't crossed the first round of any super series event this year, apart from the India Open, where they beat an Indian pair in the opening round.
Jwala and Ashwini also have been in poor form as they have not been able to cross the second round in any super series event, sans the World Championship, since last year. They had reached the quarterfinals at World Championship last year.
However, there is still three months to go for the Olympics and Rio-bound Indian shuttlers will look to sort out their problems to put up a good show at the Games.
Updated Date: May 04, 2016 11:23 AM