All eyes on shuttler Srikanth after Sindhu’s inspiring win


Kidambi Srikanth, the centre of attention in the Rio Olympics today, can take heart from
Hyderabad city mate P V Sindhu for his men’s singles quarterfinal clash against Chinese badminton icon Lin Dan here.

Sindhu’s stunning straight-game victory over formidable Chinese shuttler Wang Yihan on day 11 yesterday to reach the semis is the ideal morale boost for Srikanth as he confronts
two-time Olympic champion Dan.

With the memorable win, Sindhu became the second Indian badminton player to reach an Olympic semifinal after Saina Nehwal achieved the feat four years ago.

Sindhu’s highly inspirational 22-20 21-19 victory over the current world no 2 and silver medal winner in London four years ago has boosted the country’s sagging hopes of a medal
from the Games.

The 21-year-old Indian now stands just a win away from assuring India an elusive medal at the Games here.

However, the task for Srikanth against Dan is formidable as national coach P Gopichand said.
“It’s going to be a tough match and he (Srikanth) will give his best. Let’s see how it goes. All past records have no significance. It’s about keeping the momentum,” said Gopi after guiding Sindhu past Wang.

Srikanth has beaten Dan famously once to win the China Open two years ago, but the Chinese ace has looked unstoppable in past Olympics.

Indian athletes, including P T Usha’s protégé Tintu Luka (women’s 800m) and lone woman golfer Aditi Ashok are still in the fray, but India’s receding medal chances now rest mainly
on badminton and wrestling.

Tintu would be running in round one of the women’s two-lap race today while Aditi will start her campaign in the four-day stroke play golf competition.

Also in action today are women freestyle grapplers Vinesh Phogat (48kg) and Sakshi Malik (58 kg).

The country’s campaign in the Olympics has been beset by a series of disappointments and controversies.

In fact Sindhu’s superb show against Wang in 54 minutes overshadowed wrestler Narsingh Yadav’s Olympic participation, which was put in doubt after the clean chit given to him by
the National Anti-Doping Agency in the dope scandal back home was challenged by world body WADA in the Court of Appeal for Sports.

“WADA has appealed against the NADA (National Anti-Doping Agency) clearance in Court of Arbitration (CAS). Now the hearing is on and the IOA Secretary General (Rajeev Mehta) is
there with WADA officials,” Indian contingent’s chef-de-mission Rakesh Gupta told PTI.

If CAS upholds WADA’s appeal Narsingh tomorrow he willn ot only be able to take part in the 74 kg freestyle competition here but could also face a career-threatening four-year ban.

Enduring a disastrous campaign thus far, the medal-less Indian contingent has been pinning its hopes mainly on shuttlers Sindhu and Srikanth, besides its wrestlers – including world championship bronze medal winner Narsingh, to end the drought before the disheartening development.

Eleven days of action has failed to bring India, which won a record six medals in London four years ago, a single podium finish and there’s growing desperation to end this poor run.

India’s campaign now has been reduced to four disciplines – track and field, badminton, women’s golf and wrestling – after the flop show put up by the contingent in other sports.
Its woes continued on day 11 today when Hardeep Singh lost 1-2 in his opening encounter against Turkey’s Ildem Cenk in the Greco-Roman 98kg category before Sindhu brought cheer
to the camp.