Tough road ahead for Saina, Srikanth as BWF to maintain ranking points for Tokyo Olympics qualification

London Olympics bronze medalist Saina Nehwal and former World No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth’s hopes of qualifying for the postponed Tokyo Olympics in 2021 has taken a blow as the Badminton World Federation (BWF) said ranking points earned in the initial 1-year qualification period will be retained.

The BWF on Wednesday said that the Olympic qualifying process will only resume in 2021 despite the world body planning to restart the sport in September 2020 following the forced break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“All ranking points earned at tournaments completed during the original Olympic qualification period will be maintained under the Race to Tokyo ranking list,” the BWF said.

“Although we aim to resume international tournaments towards the end of 2020, we have chosen to resume the Olympic and Paralympic qualification process only in 2021 to ensure that travel restrictions and other related impacts of COVID-19 are limited,” it added.

A revised BWF Tournament Calendar 2021 with the actual dates for these eligible tournaments will be revealed later, the governing body said.

The original Olympic qualification period ended on April 28 but the BWF was unable to host the last 6 weeks of the period due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The BWF had frozen the rankings on March 17 after the sport was disrupted by the virus outbreak.

Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth were in danger of not qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics as they were lowly ranked on the BWF Road to Tokyo rankings.

While each country gets 2 quota places if the shuttlers are ranked between 1 and 16 on the Race to Tokyo rankings in the singles category, two quota places are reserved for pairs ranked between 1 and 8 in the doubles category.

As of May 27, Saina Nehwal is well outside the qualification mark as she is ranked 22 while Kidambi Srikanth is ranked 22 on the men’s singles list.

On the other hand, the likes of PV Sindhu, Sai Praneeth are still in with a bright chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Sindhu is ranked 7 on the Race To Tokyo charts while Sai Praneeth is ranked 13th. Young doubles pairing of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty are also in with a chance as they are ranked 10th on the men’s doubles chart.

BWF’s revised guidelines for Tokyo Olympics qualification in 2021

1. All ranking points earned at tournaments completed during the original Olympic qualification period will be maintained under the Race to Tokyo ranking list.

2. An extended Olympic qualification period will be introduced from Week 1-17 in 2021 and includes the select number of tournaments that were postponed, cancelled or suspended due to COVID-19.

3. These eligible tournaments within the new qualifying period must be completed by Week 17 in 2021.

4. Tournaments rescheduled for the end of 2020 outlined in the revamped BWF Tournament Calendar 2020 released last week will not count towards qualification. Only the 2021 editions of each tournament.

4. Such eligible tournaments within this new qualifying period should preferably take place in the same corresponding week from 2020 to 2021.

5. If this is not possible, BWF will allow sanctioning on another date within Week 1-17 in 2021 subject to approval.

6. Players from China and Hong Kong China will be eligible to earn points from the 2021 Badminton Asia Team Championships as representatives from those Member Associations were not able to participate in the 2020 Badminton Asia Team Championships in Manila due to COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed on athletes from those nations and territories by the Government of the Philippines.

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