The Badminton World Federation late on Wednesday withdrew Lakshya Sen, Ajay Jayaram and Subhankar Dey from the SaarLorLux Open 2020 as a precautionary measure for all participants following having been in contact with a positive case within their team entourage. The positive was identified as DK Sen, father-cum-coach of the defending champion Lakshya, by the Sports Authority of India earlier. Sen tested positive at a mandatory pre-tournament screening for Covid-19 at Frankfurt after arriving from Copenhagen. He is asymptomatic and in isolation.
BWF in a statement said, “The three players: Lakshya Sen, Ajay Jayaram and Subhankar Dey will not compete further in the SaarLorLux Open 2020, which began on Tuesday 27th October 2020, and all three players and the team entourage have been placed into isolation, in line with directives from the local health authorities and BWF tournament health protocols.”
The statement added, “All three players have tested negative for Covid-19 following the testing requirements for the tournament and are said to be in good health overall.” Ajay Jayaram had won his opening match 21-8, 21-8 beating Belgium’s Maxime Moreels in just 19 minutes and was to face Dutch third seed Mark Caljouw in the second round. Lakshya and Subhankar had first-round byes.
Isolated in his hotel room at Saarbrucken in Germany, DK Sen, says it was unfortunate his son had to pull out from the SaarLorLux Open in Germany where he was defending champion. While his first thoughts after testing positive for Covid-19 in a test on Wednesday have been about his son’s career and safety of other players, this case throws into sharp relief the perils of sport continuing to operate in its older circuit format, making travel – however short the distance between two host cities – imperative. And also perilous for the older support staff.
“There’s nothing to worry. I am fine and well and praying to god for a speedy recovery,” DK Sen however told Express. “We are in different rooms – Lakshya with his physio Abhishek (Wagh) and me separately. I have no symptoms and will follow every local protocol. We’ll take a second test soon to check when we can return,” he added. After playing in the Denmark Open mid-month, Lakshya had camped at Peter Gade Academy and travelled to Germany for Super 100 tournament which he had won last year. “We came on 25th and travelled to Frankfurt for the mandatory test. Thankfully, they both tested negative, and I’m now in isolation. It’s sad because he had worked hard, but withdrawing was the best option keeping everyone’s safety in mind,” Sen Sr said.
While the Odense Super 750 had operated within confines of a bubble with two tests cleared by players and all support staff, travel in Europe where cases are surging, is fraught.
While badminton took its time to restart, the Denmark Open had gone without a glitch, but the German event with five other Indian shuttlers in the draw saw its biggest withdrawal in form of the defending champion on the opening day. Danish finalist Rasmus Gemke is also playing in Saarbrucken, as the tournament goes ahead on schedule.
Earlier, the Thomas Uber Cup scheduled for early October had been cancelled after a raft of Asian countries, including Indonesia and Korea, had expressed their reservations about traveling to Europe. There were hopes after the successful conduct of Denmark Open which saw a couple of top Japanese names, that badminton will settle into a new normal with tournaments going ahead with restrictions and a fraction of in stadia audience. The Asian leg of three consecutive tournaments is scheduled for next January in Thailand.
“We’ll travel back once we get the go-ahead and focus on the next tournaments,” Sen said.
This is Lakshya’s first full season on the seniors circuit and after a good showing at All England, the Bangalore lad had shown over-eagerness to finish the points, flubbing his second round in his last loss at Denmark. However, the curtailed European swing was important to get into some sort of top-level sparring available at Gade’s academy.
His coach is hoping that past this speed-breaker, Lakshya will be able to pick up from where he left in training. “We’ll follow rules and do what’s needed to be done,” he ended.
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