Tokyo Olympics Qualification: The government of Malaysia imposed a travel ban on all direct flights with India from Wednesday, April 28 onwards. This decision is most likely to hurt the qualification chances of many Indian Shuttlers for the Tokyo Olympics.
The affected players also include the Former No. 1 players like Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth. The situation does not look in the favour of Indian shuttlers as only two Olympic qualifying tournaments Malaysian Open Open (May 25-30) and Singapore Open (June 1-6) are left to go.
A national selector from Bengaluru, U Vimal Kumar said that in the last eight days COVID-19 cases in the country have been continuously rising and they will have to observe the conditions for the next 10 days.
Indian players will have to travel to Malaysia by at least May 14 for the Malaysian Open and it will be difficult if the situation remains the same.
Malaysia imposed an indefinite ban on travel to and from India as the daily cases in India rose to 300,000 per day. The Indian badminton players flew to Bangkok via Dubai in January, but Malaysia has stopped any entry of Indians even via transit. As of now, among Indian shuttlers, only PV Sindhu, Chirag Shetty, B Sai Praneeth and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy are more or less confirmed for the Tokyo Olympics.
If the cases of the COVID-19 infections decrease, then things can change, said Kumar, the former national coach. The hopes of the players were pinned on the India Open which was set to be held from May 11 to May 16, but its cancellation has left their hopes hanging.
The former national coach also said that he doubts that the government will intervene in the matter. He also said that it is tough for both Saina and Srikant but he does not think that anyone will go out of their way to make any provisions for Indian shuttlers.
Olympic Bronze medallist Saina Nehwal is on the tricky ground as she is currently in 22nd place in the Race-to-Tokyo rankings. The 31-year-old player must finish the qualifying period which is until June 15 in the top 16 to qualify for the game. Badminton Player P V Sindhu is on No 7 in the list.
Apart From Shuttlers, Athletes Also Face Problems
The track and field athletes of India have also missed out on an Olympic qualifying event after the flights were suspended and they were forced to skip the World Athletics Relays in Chorzow, which will be held on May 1 in Poland. The 4*100 m women's relay team, which consists of Hima das and Dutee Chand among others, along with the men's 4*400 quartets were to take a flight to Amsterdam on Thursday but the Netherlands has suspended all its flights from India Monday onwards.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) was not able to arrange flights through other routes as many other European countries have also banned flights from India.
Due to the travel restrictions, the Asian Boxing Confederation was also forced to shift the continental championships from New Delhi to Dubai on Wednesday. The championship was originally scheduled to be held from May 21 to May 31 but will now end on June 1.