New Delhi: Olympic medallist Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth's hopes of making it to this year's Tokyo Olympic Games ended on Friday as badminton's global governing body said that no more qualifying tournaments would be played -- due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The Badminton World Federation (BWF) can confirm no further tournaments will be played inside the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games qualifying window. As such, while the qualification period officially closes 15 June, 2021, as per the Revised Tokyo 2020 Qualification System, the current Race To Tokyo rankings list will not change," the world body said.
Four Indians – P V Sindhu, Sai Praneeth, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, and Chirag Shetty -- have qualified for the July-August Olympics in Tokyo.
Olympic silver medallist Sindhu and 2019 World Championships bronze medallist Praneeth will represent India in women's and men's singles while Rankireddy and Shetty have qualified for the men's doubles event.
While Srikanth and Saina were the closest to qualifying among the Indians, Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy too had an outside of chance of making it to the Olympics in women's doubles.
Players had to be ranked inside the top 16 of the singles rankings in the Race to Tokyo standings and the top eight of the doubles rankings to achieve qualification. Saina is ranked 22nd while Srikanth is 20th. Ashwini and Sikki are ranked 26th. Sindhu is ranked seventh while Praneeth is 13th.
Both Saina, India's first Olympic medallist in badminton, and Srikanth, who became world No.1 in 2017, are ageing and might find it difficult to appear in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Three years from now, the competition too could become tougher.
Saina is 31 while Srikanth is 28. Srikanth may still pose a challenge for a spot in the 2024 Olympics, by which time he would be 31. On the other hand, Tokyo might have been the last chance for Saina to challenge for a second Olympics medal as she would be 35 by 2024.
Their chances of making it to the Olympics were significantly depleted by postponement of a number of tournaments that served as qualifiers, most notably the India Open, the Malaysian Open, and the Singapore Open, in March and April.
The three tournaments were the last in the qualification calendar and were all deferred amid a deadly second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
"The Olympic qualification process is in effect closed as there are no additional opportunities for players to earn points," said BWF secretary general Thomas Lund.
"However, we still need to receive confirmations from National Olympic Committees and Member Associations, followed by any possible reallocations, and this will take a number of weeks to complete," he said.
Invitations will be sent shortly, with final participation lists and seedings to be published at the conclusion of this process, the BWF said.