Tokyo 2020: Advantage Sindhu as Marin opts out with injury

PV Sindhu has steadily progressed on the Olympics podium step by step. The next on the crosshair of her linear growth is the Tokyo 2020 women’s singles badminton gold.

As the two-time Olympic medallist aims for the coveted shot at the golden glory, her biggest nemesis has been forced to leave the field. The most-decorated Indian badminton icon will have a certain advantage at the Tokyo Olympic since reigning women’s singles champion Carolina Marin of Spain will not be there to defend her title.

The Rio de Janeiro women’s singles gold medallist Spaniard will have to undergo a knee surgery this week. The southpaw will take longer for recovery than needed to be in action at Tokyo.

Badminton competition in the July 23-August 8 Games will start on July 24.

Marin’s loss can become Sindhu’s gain. It will give the World No. 7 Indian a certain psychological edge from the onset. Marin would have started her title defence with a 9-5 head to head career record against Sindhu. The two friends have been arch foes on the court.

Scale since the Rio Games has heavily been tilted in the Spaniard southpaw’s favour. Sindhu had bounced back with consecutive wins in her two meetings with Marin after the 2016 Olympics. The trouble has grown thereafter, Marin emerging winner in four of the five dates with the Indian ace.

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Marin’s emotional post on social media would have come as a huge respite to Sindhu the player gunning to better the colour of her Rio medal. On personal level she might be hurt by the agony of a good friend.

“This is another blow that I have to deal with, but I will certainly be back. The preparation in the last two months had become very difficult for reasons beyond the team’s control, but we were excited and knew that I would be in the best shape for the Olympics. It won’t be possible,” Marin has stated in the message.

The injury comes at a time when Marin was peaking at the right time for the Olympics. She had made it to five BWF finals and won four of them this year.

Marin’s exit although does not mean a cake walk to the top of the podium in Tokyo for Sindhu, who had converted her 2012 London Olympics’ bronze into a silver at Rio four years later.

To maintain that progress record, Sindhu will now have to quell the challenge of hardened pros like world No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying from Chinese Taipei, China’s world No. 2 Chen Yu Fei, local girl Nozomi Okuhara, ranked third in the world, and sixth-ranked Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand.

PV Sindhu will go to Olympics for the first time without her childhood coach and mentor Pullela Gopichand

Sindhu will also be up against another odd. Her two Olympic medals have come under the tutelage of India’s chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand, who also faced accusations of giving his favourite pupil more attention than Saina Nehwal, the first Olympics badminton medallist from India.

Sindhu now has parted ways with her childhood coach and mentor Gopichand, who played a crucial role in shaping her career. She had opted out of the Sports Authority of India-Pullela Gopichand Academy and moved to Korean coach Park Tae Sang at the Gachibowli Stadium, less than a kilometre from the former All-England Champion’s stable.

“I think I am prepared and will not miss Gopichand Sir in Tokyo. I am putting in about five-six hours with Park and Suchitra (her trainer) every day to keep myself ready for the Games. Last year, the Olympics got cancelled with two months to go and now it seems to be on track,” Saina had told the

Gopichand, though not is a direct reference to Park, has said that the second-best foreign coaches will make us the second best. Remains interesting to see how PV Sindhu makes the best of Marin’s absence and proves the man wrong, whom she had seldom let down.

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