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Asian Games

Satwik-Chirag clinches Indian badminton's first ever Asian Games gold

Satwik and Chirag - already the Badminton Asia Championships gold medallist in 2023 - conquered the Asian Games, the pinnacle of all sporting events in the continent, by winning the gold medal.

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty Badminton

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty display their Asian Games gold medals (Source: CGTN)


Sudipta Biswas

Updated: 7 Oct 2023 1:51 PM GMT

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty - the numero uno men's doubles pair - scripted history. They became the first Indian badminton players to win the Asian Games gold medal - in men's doubles.

Asia is where badminton has its heart. Satwik and Chirag - already the Badminton Asia Championships gold medallist in 2023 - conquered the Asian Games, the pinnacle of all sporting events in the continent, by winning the gold medal. Their tactical game against Choi Solgyu and Kim Wonho enabled them to a straight-game (21-18, 21-16) win in 57 minutes.

Playing against a pair they previously defeated twice - both in straight games, the Indian combo has a psychological edge. But in the final, such an advantage may go for a toss if one is too smug. Satwik and Chirag, however, did not have to worry about such smugness, given the flattening form they are in.

That Satwik and Chirag have been in a razing shape, and coming back to the summit clash with a straight-game win over their arch-rivals Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik in the semifinal, their confidence only grew many notches higher.

They have the killing game, court craft and skills - they know it. All they needed on Saturday was to stay up in the rally and fetch the winners while not allowing their opponents to win too many points.

While Satwik and Chirag played a faster game in the semifinal - devised by their game strategist Mathias Boe and coach Pullela Gopichand - equipped with impeccable defence, that tactic they set aside against Choi and Kim, who also have an equally brilliant defence and attack.

In the first game, the battle was intense and close, but Choi and Kim, imitating Chia and Soh's relentless smashing while covering the court better than the Indians, managed to take a two-point lead over the Indian pair at the interval.

Such intense was their style that Kim, who operated like a live wire at the back before transitioning himself to the frontcourt, would force Chirag to run the shuttle in the net at 9-6. Choi was not lagging behind either; he would charge at Chirag's body with a giant smash as they cruised to an 11-9 lead.

Kim and Choi remained fast and frequently smashed after the break too. They drew the Indians to the net and clinched the winners, with Kim trying to rattle Satwik and Chirag with his relentless smashing.

Slow game, precise judgement and wristy flicks

The Indian pair, who would become world number 1 on Tuesday, however, held their nerves and stayed firm under those onslaughts. They are the champions of many dogged battles. They have what it takes to win the gold medal. A mid-game change in tactic paid off. They slowed down the game, cut down on smashing and fetched a few quick points with brilliant services and wristy retrievals against Choi's smashing. The Indians would sail into a 17-14 lead against the run of play.

Kim and Choi, however, would fight back to draw level at 18-18 before Chirag, a man of tall frame, unleashed his mighty jump smash to split the Korean's defence. It landed in the Koreans' mid-court. The Koreans got rattled at this stage, and the Indians quickly finished off the game, with Choi's return ruffling the net following an incredibly fast smash by Satwik, set up by Chirag.

The match, which was tilting in the Koreans' favour, saw the Indians snatching the crucial lead at the end of the first game.

The second game would see Satwik and Chirag relying more on placements. It paid off again for them as they broke away to a 6-3 lead, with Chirag's flick landing on Kim's chest.

The Indian shuttlers have also won points for Chirag's accurate judgement when Kim's toss went long. Then there was a point to be won with a brilliant service when Choi's forehand hit the net after Chirag spun his serve. They would eventually take the lead just allowing the shuttle to go wide again.

The Indians were in command of the game. But Kim and Choi would not leave the battle without a fight. They were on a comeback trail when they reduced Satwik and Chirag's lead with three points on the trot after the break at 10-11.

It was a close battle till 13-12 before Satwik-Chiag left the Koreans vexed with their constant retrievals against Kim's relentless smashing. The Indians would win the rally with a wristy flick played by Satwik. The gap would soon widen to 17-12, with the Indian pair taking a cushion of a five-point lead over the Koreans.

But there was a late fightback from Kim. He charged at the net to force the Indians to deflate. But the Indian duo were nonchalant. What followed next was Chirag's jump smash. It got Choi's defence split as the Indians fetched the winner to script history - a remarkable one for themselves and the country.

As Satwik and Chirag have always done - winning many firsts for Indian badminton such as World Tour titles, the World Championships medal and the Asian Championships title, they became the first Indian shuttlers, and the first Indian doubles pair to win Asian Games gold.

It was a triumph that Gopichand described as 'even more difficult to win than the Olympics'.

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