Indian para-badminton team awaits 25 visas for crucial World Championship qualifiers in Canada
Indian para-badminton shuttlers stand to lose a lot of key ranking points if they don't get to play in Canada, in the final qualifiers for the 2022 World Championships, if their visa is not sanctioned soon.
Visa woes seem to be ruling the Indian sports community as 25 para-badminton players out of 31 are still awaiting visa confirmation from Canada, where they are supposed to head for the BWF Canada Para-Badminton International that begins on 6th June - the final qualifiers for the 2022 World Para-Badminton Championships.
"Only 5 players from our team have the visa - Pramod Bhagat, Manasi Joshi, Manoj Sarkar, Vikram and Sanjeev Kumar, as they have a 10-year visa, but for the rest of us, visas are still pending," World No. 7 para-shuttler Nilesh Gaikwad tells The Bridge after he posted on Twitter alerting the concerned authorities on the issue.
"Rajkumar also has a visa but he isn't being able to travel as his partner in men's doubles, Chirag and mixed event, Parul are stuck with their visas too," Gaikwad enlightens.
"We had back-to-back tournaments and returned from Dubai only on 31st May, so we didn't even get time to chase this visa application," Gaikwad explains, pointing to the 17-medal haul the Indian para-badminton team made at the Fazza Para-Badminton International 2022.
"We had applied for the visa a month back immediately after the tournament entry list was updated. But for some reason, our visas haven't been processed yet. We had to leave yesterday (3rd June), in fact, but since the visa delay came about, we don't know when we can fly out next.
"In fact, we didn't even unpack our Dubai bags, we were just waiting for the visa approval to fly out," Gaikwad mentions, with a laugh.
"But thankfully SAI and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports are looking into it and have mailed the Canadian Embassy with our names and Kiren Rijiju Sir is also looking into this, so hopefully we'll get the visas soon. If we don't, it will be a major blow to us para-shuttlers," he says.
So, why is the Canada Para-Badminton International so important?
For starters, the Canada Para-Badminton International is a Level 1 tournament and therefore will have a plethora of points on offer. But more than anything else, the event will serve as the final tournament for qualifying for the 2022 Para-Badminton World Championships.
"As it is, in para-badminton, the competition is intense and mostly between Indians - therefore missing any tournament will badly affect our points," Gaikwad says.
"That's not all, the BWF will be halving the points of 2019 after the Canada International and by end-December, the points from 2019 will become 0, as per the ranking rules of the BWF now.
"This will be a blow for us because, from any country, up to 3 players can be sent from every category and these players have to stay within the BWF Top 16 or Top 8 in certain cases, so once the rankings are halved of 2019, some of us just might drop out of the Top 8 or 16, if we don't play in Canada and not be able to play in the World Championships," Gaikwad elaborately explained the matter.
"We are hoping this matter gets resolved quickly and we can travel to Canada soon, so many of us will be stuck otherwise and our rankings will be grossly affected," Gaikwad signs off, on a hopeful note.