Saving it for Rio: Top Indian shuttlers including Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu reluctant to play at SAG

Lucknow: Top Indian shuttlers including Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu are reluctant to play at the upcoming South Asian Games so that their preparations and training schedule for the Rio Olympics does not get affected.

The qualification for the Rio would depend on world rankings in May and the players are keen that they compete in international events to keep improving their standings.

South Asian Games are clashing with the Thailand Masters but Badminton Association of India (BAI) is trying to convince the players to not withdraw.

Saina Nehwal in a file photo. AFP

Saina Nehwal in a file photo. AFP

"Some of the top players such as Saina and Sindhu have sent letters to the BAI citing fitness and health issues to skip the SAG. We will try to convince them or leave it to the government to take a call," said a BAI source.

Games competition director K Ch Punnaiah Chowdary is unaware of any such development.

"As of now, I have no such information," he said.

Indian shuttlers are also set to compete at the Badminton Asia Team Championships in Hyderabad from February 15 to 21 and participating in SA games will disrupt their training and tournament schedule.

The team championship at the Games is scheduled for February 6 and 7 for men and women respectively. The semifinals will be held on February 8 and finals in the evening, while the individual events will be held on February 9 and 10.

Indian shuttlers managed a clean sweep, clinching all 7 gold medals in both men's and women's events in the last event, popularly called the Olympics Games of South Asia, when it was held in 2010 in Bangladesh.

This time, all the eight nations will be participating in the badminton event for the first time in the history of SAG but the top Indian shuttlers are finding themselves in a difficult spot as it is an Olympic year.

Last Wednesday, BAI had announced that World No.2 Saina and World No.9 Srikanth will be spearheading a strong 15-member squad for the Games. Double World Championship bronze medallist Sindhu and 2014 Commonwealth Games (CWG) champion Parupalli Kashyap, H S Prannoy, Ajay Jayaram, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa have also been named in the squad.

nterestingly, Olympic bronze medallist Saina had sent her entries for the Thailand Masters, which was supposed to be her first event of the new season after she skipped the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold citing 'illness'.

In fact, Commonwealth Games champion Kashyap is also supposed to play in the USD 1,20,000 Thailand Grand Prix Gold which is scheduled to be held in Bangkok from February 8.

"The government does a lot for the players. But this is an Olympic year where all the top players are working really hard to qualify for the event which comes every four years. So naturally no one is happy to play at SA Games," said a top doubles player.

According to sources, the Sports Ministry has directed three national federations, including BAI, to ensure that full-strength squads are fielded at the regional showpiece event which India is hosting after more than two decades.

The last time India had hosted the tournament was in Chennai in 1995 and Kolkata was the first city in India to host the Games in 1987.

With less than a week to go for the events, it remains to be seen if the top Indian shuttlers eventually participate in the event, which will see around 3307 athletes taking part in this 12-day sporting event.

Apart from regional giants India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Maldives will take part in 23 disciplines during the event.


Updated Date: Feb 02, 2016 09:11 AM

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