Satwiksairaj Rankireddy was still in disbelief after he and his partner Chirag Shetty created history, becoming the first Indian pair to win a doubles gold at the Asian Championships here on Sunday.
The 2022 World Championships bronze medallists pair broke a 58-year-old drought, becoming the first Indians after Dinesh Khanna to be crowned champions at the continental championships. Satwik and Chirag edged past the Malaysian combination of Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi 16-21, 21-17, 21-19 in a nail-biting final to accomplish a magnificent victory in the continental championship.
"Personally for me, it will take a lot of time to believe that we are the Asian champions," Satwik said during the press-conference. "I still don't believe we are Thomas Cup champions. It's our dream to win for India and make the flag fly high. Good boost for us as we go into the Olympic qualification period."
Khanna is the only Indian to claim the gold medal, having achieved the feat when he beat Thailand's Sangob Rattanusorn in the men's singles final in 1965 in Lucknow. India's previous best performance in men's doubles at the Asia Championships was a bronze-medal finish by Dipu Ghosh and Raman Ghosh in 1971.
Satwik and Chirag showed tremendous grit as they never gave up after losing the first game and being 7-13 and 11-15 down in the second and third game to secure the first gold for India in doubles. "I think today we didn’t play, the crowd played with us. It was a bad start in the first and half of second game, but we didn’t give up," he said.
"We kept our nerves, we know how to play these situations. So, we were waiting for the good rhythm and then take our chances. We were calmer in the second and third games. It felt like playing in Hyderabad. The crowd was amazing."
It was the second title of the season for Satwik and Chirag, who continued to remain the best shuttlers for the country on display this season. Chirag said: "After 13-8 we tried to play little smarter. Service was one thing that worked really well for us, it took them by surprise. We were also a lot calmer while defending as well."
Besides the Asian Championships title, Satwik and Chirag also won the 2022 Commonwealth Games and five career titles on the BWF World Tour.