B Sai Praneeth is the only Indian competing in the Men’s singles event at the Tokyo Olympics after Kidambi Srikanth failed to make the cut. Therefore all eyes will be on Praneeth who will have to play his best badminton despite all the pressure on him.
While Sai Praneeth is confident that he will be able to manage the weight of expectations, it is only his first Olympics and things are easier said than done. The 28-year-old shuttler will have to keep everything aside while he steps onto the court at the Olympics.
“Pressure is there before every tournament. I think I have gained enough experience to handle that now,” he told Times of India.
“Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to what people say or write about me because people always want us to win. They always want a medal. So, I tune that out. But I am working hard and I am a bit confident. I’ll give my best and let’s hope everything goes well.”
The shuttler credits his coach Pullela Gopichand for his tremendous growth, Whereas Gopichand feels that Sai Praneeth has all the ingredients to win an Olympics medal.
Apart from Sai Praneeth, PV Sindhu and the pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty are the only Indian shuttlers to have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Despite the lack of personnel, Gopichand feels each of the shuttlers on their day has that talent to win India Olympic medals.
“It’s very motivating to hear that. He (Gopichand) has been our coach for quite some time. I have been with him for a very long time. He knows exactly what we all are capable of. In fact, he knows us better than all our parents,” Sai Praneeth replied to Gopichand’s claims.
The World No. 13 has shown multiple times that he is capable of going toe to toe with the top shuttlers in the world. He became the first Indian male since Prakash Padukone to win a medal at the Badminton World Championships in 2019 when he clinched the Bronze medal.
Sai Praneeth has often been a headache for some of the top players having beaten them multiple times in their careers. Hence the Andhra shuttler is very confident ahead of the Summer Games.
“Definitely, I am looking to win a medal. But in a tournament like this, you can’t predict the results. This tournament is different. No player has much practice because of the pandemic. Everybody will be coming without too many games under their belt. I will definitely give my best and I am confident that I can win one if I do my part. But the result is not in your hands in a situation like this,” 28-year-old signed off.