“We will be the most studied players now after the Asian Games gold, and we are aware of the need to be ready for any fresh challenges,” said shuttler R. Satwiksairaj, who with his partner Chirag Shetty, won the Asian Games men’s doubles gold last week.
“Not long ago, nobody cared for us. But, we are aware now that players across the world will make a critical analysis of our skill and techniques,” Satwik said on his return to the City on Wednesday.
“Now, I am not thinking about the opponents. The biggest opponent is my body, and I have to stay injury-free to continue to keep doing well,” Satwik said, flanked by chief coach P. Gopi Chand and Asiad men’s singles medal winner H.S. Prannoy. “I now have a feeling that it is better to lose,” he added with a big smile.
“Definitely we were disappointed after failing to get a medal in the last world championship. But, honestly, the intensive training in the air-conditioned indoor hall at Gopi-Kotak Academy here before the Asiad helped us a lot,” Satwik said.
“For someone born in Amalapuram (Andhra Pradesh) and being invited to sit beside the Prime Minister of India (Mr Narendra Modi) is something I can never forget. There were goosebumps. Never did I think it would happen one day. Obviously, his interest and encouragement to sports go a long way in inspiring us,” the champion doubles shuttler said.
“We must say we are here before all of you because of Gopi Sir,” Satwik acknowledged the national coach’s contribution.
For his part, Prannoy said it was a collective decision that made him play in the Asian Games despite an injury.
“Hats off to the support staff particularly to Kiran sir for making it possible and helping me win a medal in the Asiad,” he said.
“I played with a lot of pain. It was a very tough call to make. But we all felt it was a lifetime opportunity to win a medal, and we went ahead,” Prannoy said.
“Earlier the targets were short like making it to the quarters and semifinals. Now, it is playing three good matches, making it to the finals is the bigger goal. This is helping me a lot,” he said even while thanking his support staff, particularly the travelling coach R.M.V. Guru Sai Dutt.
Gopi said it was a huge risk taken to play Prannoy but that they decided to let the latter have a go in the semifinal because he was playing so well of late, and it was a medal match. “It was decided to take a call on whether to play the final (if Prannoy were to make it) or not. It was an extraordinary performance by Prannoy,” he added.
Gopi said, overall it had been a great Asian Games for Indian badminton itself with the men’s team winning the silver, Prannoy bagging a bronze, and Satwik and Chirag winning the men’s doubles gold.
“I believe that Satwik and Chirag have been playing like World No.1. pair in the last seven months, and the ranking released yesterday only confirmed that,” he said.
“They have much more to achieve, and I must say this combine is one of the strongest contenders for an Olympic medal next year,” Gopi said.