Indian shuttlers Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy have finally got some time to pause and reflect due to the COVID-19 pandemic and they are making the most of it by creating a database to analyse their past performances while waiting for another shot at Olympic qualification.
The coronavirus outbreak has left over 1.2 lakh people dead and infected nearly 2 million globally, and brought all sports activities, including badminton, to a halt after countries imposed lockdowns. Ashwini and Sikki are doubles specialists and endured an underwhelming season last year. The time at hand has given them a chace to analyse the past performances. "We don't have any one to sit and do analysis for us, so now that we have time, I'm doing some analysis of our performance. I am jotting down points, about areas where I can improve. I started with my matches and then other players on tour," Ashwini, who represented India at the London and Rio Olympic Games, told PTI.
"You can always watch and analyse and understand the patterns but it is different when you see things on paper. It is more concrete. So trying to set up a complete database. My brother will help me out. He made an app for me in the past." Ashwini and Sikki fell at the first hurdle 13 times in 20 tournaments last year, and exited from the second round thrice. Ashwini also picked up a calf injury during the Syed Modi International but the duo was still confident of qualifying by performing well in the remaining Olympic qualifiers.
But with Badminton World Federation (BWF) cancelling all tournaments due to the coronavirus pandemic, their fate remains uncertain. "The problem is we don't know the new BWF rules regarding the qualification. There is one year left now, you can't take a two year old performance to select for Olympics, it has to be present performance, so we have to wait," said Sikki. "In badminton, there is a ranking cut off, so how will they accommodate the cancelled qualifiers, how will they count the ranking points, everything is too messed up now," she added.
Sikki and Ashwini had reached the finals at Hyderabad Open Super 100 and Maldives International Challenge, last year. The Indian pair is ranked 28th and will need to be inside top 16 on April 29, 2021 - the new Olympic cut off date. Ashwini said: "Me and Sikki were confident of doing well in the 4-5 tournaments left but now no one knows what would be the criteria of Olympic qualification and BWF can't really say anything with things changing every moment." They are using the coronavirus-forced break to learn cooking, besides doing some wall practice and exercises for physical fitness.
Talking about the effects of the lockdown on mental health, Sikki said: "We have been travelling a lot all these years and now for a month, we are at home, it is fine. But what if it is for 2-3 months, then it will get tough to stay away from the game. So it is important to stay motivated for once the lockdown is lifted because you will in a comfortable zone in the break and then all of a sudden you will need to push yourself."
Ashwini added: "...now that Olympics have been postponed, nothing is certain and it is tough, you have to be really strong." The economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak has hit sports hard and Ashwini said badminton too will be affected. "It will hit in terms of sponsors, in terms of tournaments being conducted because countries need sponsors to host events, and after this, I'm not sure what the economic status of many countries would be. The way things are, it is will be tough to host tournaments, it will not be easy for countries to have tournaments with many big companies shut and struggling to survive," she signed off.