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Asian Games

Satwik-Chirag live up to pledge made to Indian team

When India had narrowly lost to China in the men's badminton team event, they had promised each other that at least one of them would make the national anthem play in the badminton arena on the final day of the Asian Games.

Satwik-Chirag live up to pledge made to Indian team

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy hits a defensive shot between his legs during the Asian Games semifinal (AGNS)


Dipankar Lahiri

Updated: 6 Oct 2023 6:26 PM GMT

Hangzhou: When the Indian men's badminton team had come down from the podium after winning silver at the Asian Games, they had made a pledge to each other that at least one of them would make the Indian national anthem play at the Binjiang Gymnasium on the final day. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, with a dominating win over the world champions from Malaysia Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik on Friday, showed that they are well on way to fulfilling that pledge.

"Before coming to play this match, we got the good news that India had crossed 100 medals. Hearing the national anthem at the Asian Games gives us a lot of motivation. We missed out in the team event, everyone felt really sad that day when the Chinese national anthem was playing. We were almost there, it was just a matter of one point here and there," Satwik said after the 21-17, 21-12 win, a match that took just 46 minutes of slam-bang-go-back-home action.

"That day, we took a pledge that someone from our team would play the national anthem on the final day. Unfortunately, Prannoy bhaiya, the fighter, the king, the motivator..." Satwik trailed off, citing HS Prannoy's brave exit from the men's singles category with a bronze.

The high-flying men's duo have already scripted Asian Games history by becoming the first-ever Indian pair to enter the final. The world number 3 Indian duo will now face Choi Soi Gyu/Kim Won Ho of Korea, ranked 15th in the world, in the final on Saturday.

The gold medal match should not be counted as an inevitable win, but given the ease with which Satwik and Chirag swatted away the Malaysian pair, the 5th-ranked pair in the world, it would seem a first-ever gold medal is within touching distance.

Satwik-Chirag overturn an infamous head-to-head record

What made the dominance of the win even more surprising was the 1-8 head-to-head record the Indians had against Chia and Soh before Friday.

"We've not had the best record against them, but the last two times we have been a lot more smarter, we have not held ourselves back. The previous eight times, we used to think that they have really fast hands, have powerful attack, we used to be little more hesitant. We have played more freely the last two times," said Chirag Shetty.

Satwik chipped in, "We have become a lot more calmer, we used to worry about their strengths before. The ninth time we thought we had nothing to lose against them, thought if they beat us, let them, hamare piche para hai iye (these guys have our number)."

The first time the Indians managed to beat the Malaysians had been at the Super 1000 Indonesia Open in June this year, which had pushed Satwik and Chirag to a then-career-high world rank of three. After Friday's win, the Indian duo are set to climb to the top spot in the world ranking for the first time. But the duo said they tried their hardest to not think of that mark, going by past experience.

"(The world rank 1) is just a number. Twice we lost when closing in on that spot, but today we controlled ourselves to not think about the number," Satwik said.

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