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It’s not about draw but winning under pressure: Gopichand

India’s chief badminton coach Pullela Gopichand believes draw does not matter if shuttlers are really gunning for a medal and said it will boil down to two good back-to-back matches under pressure to earn a medal at the Rio Olympics starting August 5.

A total of seven Indian shuttlers, including London Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, have qualified for the Rio Olympics and their competitors will be decided in the draw which will be out on July 26.

“I believe the draw doesn’t matter so much if you are really looking for a medal. You might have an initial bad round or at the quarterfinals. So I am not worried about that. I know the preparation have been going well,” Gopichand told reporters on the sideline of the launch of his international academy at Greater Noida.

“We have a larger contingent this time. We have the men’s doubles qualifying alongwith the women’s doubles. We have Saina who has won a medal at London as an experienced player.

We have K Srikanth and PV Sindhu who also have a decent chance. I believe it all boils down to having two good days and for the sort of pressure that Olympics brings, anything is possible.”

Saina and women’s doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa have already played at the London Olympics but it would be a first time experience for Srikanth, Sindhu and men’s doubles pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy.

Asked about the lack of Olympic experience, Gopichand said: “In a way, our players being at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games is kind of an experience which is there with them and sometimes when you don’t play multi-sport event, Olympics can become really big. But CWG and Asian games is a similar experience at a larger scale.

“So it is important to shut the stars and glitch of the Olympics and focus on the game. Last time we had stayed at a hotel but this time we will be at the Village as our event is there,” he added.

Former All England champion, Gopichand was also optimistic about the medal chances of Indian men’s and women’s doubles pair and said the idea will be to be positive and grab every small opportunity that come in the way.

“The draw at the Olympics is a small draw. It is a 16-player draw and out of them are 2-3 are just continental entries. So it is really boiling down to 13 top players, which means if you really have one good round you are in with a medal chance already and any of the players can crack. I am just optimistic,” he said.

“I have seen strange things happening in Olympics so we should just go with our preparation and a positive mind and if we have a small chance we should grab it,” Gopichand added.

It has not been a good year for Srikanth and Sindhu as they made a series of early exits and Gopichand put the blame on the hectic Olympic qualification schedule.

“The year of Olympic qualification is challenging because you don’t get the time to rectify the mistakes because there is the pressure of defending points for qualification. But post the may qualification, Srikanth has played one event and reached the semifinals. So I am confident about him.

“Sindhu has been working hard. She has delivered in the past at big events such as World Championship and Asian Games and I am hoping she does well here,” said the Dronacharya Awardee.

Talking about the competition in men’s and women’s singles, Gopichand said: “The men’s singles competition has remained pretty much the same over the last four years. The best three will still be Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan and Chen Long.

“But the women’s singles have moved primarily from the Chinese domination to a larger base of players who have won tournaments in the last few years with Carolina Marin, Ratchanok Intanon, Japanese and Koreans coming in.

“It is a much open field in women’s but nonetheless it boils down to two good back—to—back matches,” he added.

Gopichand said most of the top women’s singles players have been inconsistent this year and there won’t be any clear favourites for an Olympic gold.

Asked about Ratchanok, who won three consecutive titles at India, Malaysia and Singapore, Gopichand said: “She has won three back to back tournaments and then she lost early in the next two events so all of them have been very inconsistent. So it very difficult to predict and it depends on the conditions we get there.”

Taking about reigning All England and World Champion, Carolina Marin, “She has not played in the last few months. We should not take it as a baggage going into the Olympics. We should go on with our positives and not think about the records because those doesn’t really make sense.”


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