“What we achieved in the Commonwealth Games is history now. It is time to focus on the fresh challenges,” said Pullela Gopi Chand, chief national coach of the Indian badminton team, in a chat with The Hindu at the Gopi Chand Academy here on Saturday.

The intensity of preparations for next week's Asian Games in China can be gauged from the fact that ace shuttler Saina Nehwal refused to attend any felicitation functions except for the one organised by the State government — with the specific aim of winning the Asiad gold, according to Gopi.

“Definitely, it is a very short gap between two major events — CWG and the Asian Games. But we have little choice, even though it is a nightmare in terms of preparations for all of us — players and coaches.”

“The Asian Games is like a mini Olympics as far as badminton is concerned, due to the presence of the Chinese and Indonesians. And, the Chinese in front of their home crowd is a formidable challenge.”

However, the national coach feels that Saina Nehwal is at her best, both in terms of fitness and strategy. “Having successfully breached the ‘Chinese Wall' in international badminton, she is aware that she has to take the next big step,” he said.

“Given her abundant talent and experience, she should be obviously India's best bet in singles competitions, especially since Chetan Anand has pulled out. All Saina has to do is to focus on simple things and avoid making unforced errors.”

The Dronacharya awardee takes immense pride from the fact that Saina has given a new dimension to the sport, especially to women's badminton in India. “The biggest positive of the recent CWG is that there is more following for badminton in India now,” he says.

About India's chances, Gopi says that the doubles duo of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa and the mixed doubles pair of Jwala and V. Diju along with P. Kashyap stand a good chance, but it all depends on how they sustain their momentum right through.

“The draw indicates that Kashyap runs into Lin Dan in the quarterfinal if he gets past the early rounds,” he pointed out. “Anything can happen, but to make it happen you have to come up with a special performance and Kashyap is improving by leaps and bounds now.”

He also believes that the Asiad should be the best chance for the shuttlers to come back with medals after a long time.

Keywords: Asian Games

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