Shuttlers Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap on Saturday sought clarity on the situation around the outbreak of coronavirus and suggested that the qualification period for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics be extended in light of tournaments getting canceled as part of precautionary measures taken against the epidemic.
In a series of tweets, Saina and her husband Kashyap said that the reduced number of tournaments leaves very little chance for players on the fringe of qualification to improve rankings.
“Qualification period can be extended if the tournaments are getting canceled cause of #coronavirus (sic.),” Saina said, tagging the Badminton World Federation (BWF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“It will be unfair for most of the players who are really close to qualifying for Olympics 2020,” she said.
Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) February 29, 2020
Saina made her comments while retweeting Kashyap, who also provided an update on a back injury that he suffered during the Spain Masters earlier in the month.
“We all had 7 events starting from Spain Masters until the Singapore Open and few have the Asian Champs too,” tweeted Kashyap.
“Now that German Open is canceled and Swiss Open looking doubtful and Singapore and Malaysia Opens also with the same worries, it will be completely unfair for so many athletes who are on the borderline of qualification at this moment.
“7 events are a lot of events considering the best 10 performances in a qualifying period are chosen. If at all the virus is contained and slowly everything comes back to normalcy in a few months and the Olympics takes place on same dates then BWF and IOC have to revise and extend the qualification dates and make sure they add on the events later or make it a fair qualification.
“I understand that everything has to be assumed at this moment but I hope all the athletes have a fair chance to qualify for the Olympics. Many players were injured in the last year when the qualification period started and now if they’re fit and hope to do well in the next events, what happens to their qualification chances if most the events are doubtful as of now,” Kashyap asked.
Saina, who became the first Indian to win an Olympic medal in badminton, is in a race against time to make the cut for Tokyo 2020. Her current Olympic qualification rank is 22 and with P.V. Sindhu ranked seventh, Saina has to be ranked within the top 16 to qualify.
Kashyap is ranked 24th while former world no.1 Kidambi Srikanth is 21st in the men’s rankings. The presence of World Championships bronze medallist Sai Praneeth in the 11th spot means that Kashyap and Srikanth must also look to finish in the top 16.
Earlier, the BWF had said that it is not making any adjustments to the Olympic qualification period despite a number of tournaments being cancelled or postponed — and thus dropping out of the qualification period — due to coronavirus.
“Any change to the existing Olympic qualification rules will affect different players both positively or negatively, and with the present level of postponement and cancellation, BWF does not believe that making changes is appropriate,” the BWF had said in a statement.
“The postponement or cancellation of tournaments is not within the control of hosts, BWF or the badminton community, but is caused by the ongoing developments as a result of COVID-19 in different areas of the world and decisions will be taken based on information provided by public health authorities,” it said.
The disease has caused a global crisis with the death toll in China, where it originated, reaching 2,835. It has led to disruption in the qualification calendar for the Olympics and raised questions as to whether the event itself can be held on the pre-determined dates.