India is hopeful of stepping up its medal tally in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. And the badminton team is expected to have a big contribution to it. As the build-up to the games continues, B Sai Praneeth is hopeful of booking a seat on the flight to Japan. Praneeth is the first Indian male shuttler in 36 years to win a bronze medal in the BWF World Championships in 2019.
But ever since, a flurry of injuries meant he couldn’t build on the success. Ahead of the Olympics, the 28 year old is working hard on his fitness on his way to the grand carnival of sports. Although the pandemic disrupted his practice, Praneeth is glad to have had a break. He trained at home during the lockdown as he opted to focus on the positives of it.
“I’ll be working on my fitness. I think that is a main issue for me. For the 2021 Olympics, there is lot to work on. This pandemic gave a huge break, which I’ve [never] had before,” Sai Praneeth told Olympic Channel. “I am a stroke player, so for me fitness is the main thing. If I am fit, I can perform well.”
Sai Praneeth hails coach Pullela Gopichand
India’s former badminton star Pullela Gopichand has been the stepping stone in the rise of the sport in India. Praneeth, who train under him, is all praises for the former shuttler. Praneeth shares how following the tips of his coach Gopichand helped him in the quarterfinals of the 2019 World Championships, where he went on to win a bronze medal.
“At a very crucial time in the quarter-finals, he suggested that I do something. And I did it. Because I won that game, I could win a medal.” – Sai Praneeth adds. “He always thinks that, when we win a medal, he thinks that he won a medal.”
Having missed out on the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Praneeth is determined to make the cut for Tokyo. He shares that there is a long way ahead and the final aim is to make it to the grand stage. A country can send two representatives if both are ranked within the top sixteen at the end of the Olympic qualification period.
“I think every athlete wants to win a medal at the Olympics, even me. There’s still a long way to go. We have many tournaments in between. The final aim is Olympics but there is still a lot more things to do in between,” he signs off.