With only a few days to go before the much-awaited Tokyo Olympics begin, the excitement around the same is starting to peak. For India, badminton will act as a cynosure event with World No. 7 PV Sindhu, World No. 13 B. Sai Praneeth and World No. 9 men's doubles duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy - Chirag Shetty gearing up to go to Tokyo.
To qualify for the Olympic Games, a player has to find themselves within the BWF Top 16 to make the cut for the quadrennial event. Let's take a look at who are the players who occupy the top echelons of badminton and are routed to the Tokyo Olympics.Note: The following rankings are based on the Race to Tokyo - BWF Qualification rankings as on 15th June, 2021.
#1 Chen Yufei - China
Chinese sensation Chen Yufei, all of 23, occupies the Numero Uno spot on both the BWF as well as the Race to Tokyo rankings. Looking to make her Olympic debut, this 2-time World Championships bronze medalist will be a huge medal favourite.
#2 Tai Tzu Ying - Chinese Taipei
Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu Ying is definitely one of the best in the business. Feared by her opponents for her unpredictable skills on the court, this 3-time All England Champion will be eager to correct the errors of her previous Olympic appearances and clinch the first medal in badminton for Chinese Taipei.
#3 Nozomi Okuhara - Japan
At the No. 3 spot, Nozomi Okuhara is a strong favourite at the Tokyo Olympics. The 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medalist, the 26-year-old Okuhara will be keen on improving her medal result as she begins her quest on home turf.
#4 Carolina Marin - Spain
The reigning Olympic champion, Carolina Marin occupies the No. 4 spot on the rankings. However, the talented Spaniard won't be playing at the Olympics owing to an ACL tear injury she suffered recently and therefore, won't be able to defend her medal at Tokyo.
#5 Akane Yamaguchi - Japan
Yet another bright and rising star from Japan, Akane Yamaguchi will be strong-willed about getting home a medal from Tokyo. The World No. 5 player, with marked improvement in her game, will be raring to go at Tokyo.
Most of India's hopes for a hattrick collection of Olympic medals in badminton will be centred on the Women's Singles event at the Tokyo Olympics. India's poster girl of badminton - the 2019 World Champion and Rio silver medallist, PV Sindhu occupies a commanding position on the Race to Tokyo rankings at World No. 7. While badminton veteran and former World No. 1 Saina Nehwal created history by becoming the first Indian shuttler to bag an Olympic medal when she won the bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, PV Sindhu did her one better at Rio by clinching silver. Heading into Tokyo, all eyes will be on this lanky Hyderabadi to bring home a yellow metal this time.
Meanwhile, Saina Nehwal, who was looking to enter her fourth consecutive Olympics had her hopes cut short owing to the cancellation of qualifying tournaments. Unable to gather the precious points and hike up the rankings to make the cut, Nehwal, at World No. 22, will have to sit out the Games. Therefore, PV Sindhu will be India's sole representative in the women's singles at Tokyo.
#1 Kento Momota - Japan
Playing on home turf, all eyes will be on the resurgent Kento Momota, who occupies the No. 1 spot on the BWF rankings. The 2-time World Champion will be looking to make the big kills at Tokyo and win a medal.
#2 Chou Tien Chen - Chinese Taipei
For the 31-year-old Chou Tien Chen, the Tokyo Olympics will be a much-awaited outing. Placed at No. 2 on the rankings, Tien Chen will also be a force to reckon with.
#3 Anders Antonsen - Denmark
The Danish players have marked their supremacy on the badminton tour time and again and World No. 3 Anders Antonsen will be looking to continue that dominance at Tokyo.
#4 Viktor Axelsen - Denmark
Coming into the Tokyo Olympics as No. 4, the Rio Olympics bronze medalist, Viktor Axelsen will be eager to improve on his 2016 performance. Backed by a stirring runner-up finish at the 2021 All England Open, Axelsen is a medal favourite.
#5 Anthony Ginting - Indonesia
Spearheading the hopes of Indonesia at the Olympics, Anthony Ginting, ranked World No. 5 will also be hoping to return with a medal from the coveted Games.
The only Indian shuttler in the fray is 2019 World Championships bronze medalist B. Sai Praneeth who will be making his Olympic debut at Tokyo. Making the cut for the Olympics by a whisker, Praneeth occupies the World No. 13 spot on the BWF Race to Tokyo rankings. In fact, Sai Praneeth will be the lone Indian shuttler to compete in the men's singles and will therefore, have a lot of pressure on him to deliver at the Games.
Unfortunately, former World No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth, who was also keen on qualifying for the Olympics had his hopes dashed when a string of Olympic-qualifying tournaments got called off due to the raging pandemic. A former Olympian, Srikanth is placed at World No. 20, only four places below the cut-off mark for Olympic qualification.
#1 Yuki Fukushima - Sayaka Hirota - Japan
The Numero Uno duo of Fukushima - Hirota are enjoying a very good form and have their 2021 All England Open runner-up finish to their credit.
#2 Chen Qing Chen - Jia Yi Fan - China
The 2017 World Champion duo of Qing Chen - Yi Fan from China are a formidable pair. Holding the No. 2 spot, they will be one to watch out for in Tokyo.
#3 Mayu Matsumoto - Wakana Nagahara - Japan
Yet another Japanese combine in the mix, the World No. 3 duo of Matsumoto - Nagahara will be strong favourites for a medal. The 2-time World Championships winner, Matsumoto - Nagahara occupy the No. 3 spot and are promising hopes for Japan.
#4 Lee Sohee - Shin Seungchan - South Korea
Partnering with Lee Sohee, the 2016 Rio Games bronze medallist Shin Seungchan will be looking to improve her performance at Tokyo as she enters as the Games ranked World No. 4.
#5 Kim Soyeong - Kong Heeyong - South Korea
South Korea has historically dominated the doubles and with yet another pair in the Top 5, their medal hopes are bright. Kim Soyeong along with her partner Kong Heeyong will carry forward the South Korean hopes in Tokyo, ranked at No. 5.
In the women's doubles, the Indian duo of Ashwini Ponnappa - N Sikki Reddy have failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Placed at the World No. 26 spot, the trusted pair of Ponnappa - Sikki Reddy will not be able to travel to Tokyo.
#1 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon - Kevin Sukamuljo - Indonesia
The Minions of badminton, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sukamuljo are definite favourites heading into the Olympics. The extremely talented and well-decorated duo in badminton, Gideon-Sukamuljo will be eyeing to win a medal in Tokyo.
#2 Mohammad Ahsan - Hendra Setiawan - Indonesia
Yet another celebrated Indonesian pair in the mix and arguably one of the best doubles pairing we have seen, Setiawan, 36 will be heading into Tokyo with his partner Ahsan. Having partnered with Markis Kido, who recently passed away, Setiawan had bagged gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
#3 Li Jun Hui - Liu Yu Chen - China
The all-Chinese pair of Li Jun Hui - Liu Yu Chen will also be looked forward to at the Games. Known to pose strong threats, Jun Hui - Yu Chen are ranked as World No. 3.
#4 Hiroyuki Endo - Yuta Watanabe - Japan
The star Japanese shuttler duo of Hiroyuki Endo - Yuta Watanabe are enjoying a great form currently. Playing on home turf, the young Watanabe will partner the veteran Endo as they try and script glory for Japan in the men's doubles.
#5 Takeshi Kamura - Keigo Sonoda - Japan
Bolstering the chances of Japan further will be the combine of Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda. Placed at World No. 5, even this duo are touted as medal favourites.
India has much reason to cast their eyes on the men's doubles as well at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. For the first time, we actually have a dominating combination of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty who will spearhead the hopes of India at the Olympics. The World No. 9 pair will definitely be looking to shake things up as they debut at the Olympics.
Let's also take a look at the top seeds in Mixed Doubles:
#1 Zheng Si Wei - Huang Ya Qiong - China
#2 Wang Yi Lyu - Huang Dong Ping - China
#3 Dechapol Puavaranukroh - Sapsiree Taerattanachai - Thailand
#4 Praveen Jordan - Melati Daeva Oktavianti - Indonesia
#5 Yuta Watanabe - Arisa Higashino - Japan
In this mix, both China and Japan are expected to shine and will be heading into Tokyo as the medal favourites. Their recent performances have been quite impressive and they will be looking to continue that run in Tokyo.
In the mixed doubles as well, India won't be participating at the Tokyo Olympics as the World No. 27 duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy - Ashwini Ponnappa have failed to make the qualification cut for the Olympics.