Purse to Podiums: How badminton will benefit from TOPS

Singles shuttlers have been adequately taken care of by TOPS but the doubles pairings have been ignored.

By: Express News Service | Updated: May 16, 2015 12:24:40 pm

Saina lost the number one position after losing at Malaysian Open......Express Photo by Ravi Kanojia. Saina lost her number one position after losing at the Malaysian Open. (Source: Express Photo by Ravi Kanojia)

The Sports Ministry’s ambitious Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS), announced its first batch of beneficiaries who will be allocated funds in the run-up to the Rio Olympics in 2016. Express takes stock of where the athletes in the short-list stand currently — to see what has worked for them and what hasn’t in the last 24 months.

Badminton has been a high-achieving sport on the international circuit hitting the headlines regularly with enviable depth in singles players. While the singles shuttlers have been adequately taken care of by TOPS, the doubles pairings have been ignored in the initial funding list. India’s exits from team events — Thomas & Uber Cups and Sudirman Cup —  despite its rich crop of singles players is owing to its stark weakness in doubles — 3 ties — men’s, women’s and mixed doubles as compared to 2 singles ties. The TOPS funding — or lack of it — continues to leave the paired events in the lurch.

Saina Nehwal (Women’s singles)

Rs 90 lakh

Ups: 5 titles – 4 in Super Series in the last one year; Asian Games team bronze; unbeaten in Uber Cup; Reached World No 1

Downs: No podiums at Worlds, Asian Championship, Asian Games yet; Faltered at last hurdle at All England. She enjoys consistency in Super Series events, was on the podium at London, but her inability to win marquee titles is a monkey on her back.

P.V. Sindhu (Women’s singles)

Rs 90 lakh

Ups: Second consecutive bronze at World Championships; GP Gold title at Macau at the end of the 2014 season; Bronze at CWG, Team bronze at Asiad

Downs: Lost pressure matches like CWG semis and Asiad second round to lower ranked opponents; Failed to go past quarterfinals of a Super Series; Suffered a foot injury and subsequently lost her Top 10 spot.

P Kashyap (Men’s singles)

Rs 90 lakh

Ups: CWG gold medal; Lucknow GP Gold title

Downs: Early exits at Asian Games, Has found the going tough in professional Super Sseries circuit; Has failed to raise his game at team events like the Thomas Cup and the Sudirman Cup; Struggled to hold onto Top 10 ranking from 2013

K Srikanth (Men’s singles)

Rs 90 lakh

Ups: He has won two Super Series titles, including one in which he beat the peerless Lin Dan in China; He cracked the Top-5 in the world rankings; Recovered from a meningitis infection in mid-2014 to make a strongest comeback to international badminton; He also owns two Grand Prix gold titles.

Downs: Inconsistent on the Super Series circuit with early exits; he is also prone to lose to lower-ranked shuttlers; He has not won medals at the Asian Games or the Common Wealth Games.

H.S. Prannoy (Men’s Singles)

Rs 60 lakh

Ups: Intermittent wins over Top 15 players; Title wins at lower-tier meets; Climbed steadily to No 15 in world

Downs: 5 losses in finals of second and third tier tourneys; Still finding his feet at Super Series level: struggles to string together a week of consistent badminton culminating into title

Guru Saidutt (Men’s Singles)

Rs 60 lakh

Ups: Bronze at Glasgow CWG in 2014; scattered wins over higher-ranked shuttlers; two crucial wins under pressure in badminton’s team championship Thomas Cup.

Downs: Inconsistent in the Super Series and GPs. Ranked 44 , there are others like Ajay Jayram and Sai Praneeth (not on the list), apart from Srikanth, Kashyap and Prannoy (who are receiving TOPS funding) ahead of him in rankings, going into qualifaction year even as India attempts to send two men’s singles players (eligible if two Indians in Top 16).

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