Absence of defending champion Carolina Marin will be an advantage but there are at least six more title contenders at the Tokyo Games and PV Sindhu must examine their past performances to devise a proper strategy, says former India chief coach Vimal Kumar. Sindhu had to settle for a silver five years back at the Rio Games after going down against Marin. The three-time world champion from Spain has pulled out of the Tokyo Games after suffering a knee injury.
“Marin was a strong contender for the gold and her absence will be felt. So many players will have an advantage not just Sindhu. Sindhu is definitely in with a chance for the gold but there are at least six other girls who can claim the title,” Vimal told PTI.
“Tai Tzu Ying, the two Japanese girls Akane Yamaguchi and Nozomi Okuhara are strong contenders. I am not sure about the two Chinese girls, Chen Yufei and He Binjiao. I haven’t seen them play of late, so don’t know how prepared they are or how they will perform. Ratchanok Inthanon also can be tricky.”
“It will also boil down to that particular day, who is in the right mental and physical conditions on that day to pull through. So it is still very open, anybody from these six girls can be 1-2-3,” he said.
Vimal said there is still a lot of time and Sindhu needs to work on her strategies against potential opponents.
“A lot can be done like they can discuss about her potential rivals, can look and analyse the matches: what situation they lost a match, the errors that they committed. It helps devise tactics and also gives confidence to the players. They still have time as Olympics is still a month away,” he advised.
The 58-year-old, who had represented India at the 1992 Games, believes B Sai Praneeth has a good tactical game and may emerge as a dark horse in the men’s singles at the Olympics, beginning July 23.
World number 15 Praneeth had ended a 36-year-long wait by winning the bronze medal at the World Championship in 2019.
“As a junior, I always felt he would achieve more than anybody else. He is the first one to do well in the World Championship after Prakash (Padukone), so there is no reason why he can’t do well in the Olympics.
“If he gets a good draw, he can be a dark horse,” said Vimal, who was the chief India coach from 2001 to 2006.
“I don’t know what physical state he is in but you never know. If you don’t run into a big player early on in the draw, chances of going far is more in the Olympics than a Super Series event.
“It again depends on mental and physical strength to last out, game wise, tactics wise, he is all good.”
Talking about Sindhu’s chances at the Olympics, former India women’s coach Madhumita Bisht said, “All of us are expecting gold from us. She was a dark horse in 2016. We never thought she will win a silver. There was no pressure. But now she is a world champion and a silver medallist and there is also COVID-19 to deal with.”
“The pandemic has affected India more than other countries. Being a sportsperson going into Olympics is stressful enough and now there will also be this tension to stay safe but she is a hard-working person and she will do well.”
Sindhu didn’t have great results in the run-up to the Olympics with just one final to show at the Swiss Open.
“I felt her physical condition was not that good during the tournaments that she played this year. She plays really long matches and after she went to London and with this lockdown. Physically she was not at that level. But it is not going to affect her as past performances don’t matter, she is a strong girl,” said Bisht.
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