By Ankit Bisht
New Delhi [India], March 16 (ANI): As the much-awaited Tokyo Olympics is around the corner, the athletes are giving it their all to bring out the best version of themselves at the showpiece event.
In an interaction with ANI, Indian shuttler Chirag Shetty, who plays with his partner Satwiksairaj Rankireddy in the doubles event, shared his thoughts on various topics ranging from Olympics preparation, coaching style of new Olympic medalist coach Mathias Boe and the upcoming All England Open which will commence from Wednesday.
The 23-year-old Chirag is focused on making the most from the year as there will be a lot on the plate being an Olympic year. The prime attention will be given to fitness and training as the year hosts a number of tournaments including the Olympic qualification events and the Olympics itself.
"Since it is an Olympic year there will be a lot of tournaments and training so we need to take extra care of our fitness. Last week, when we had a week off between the Swiss Open and All England Open we had a good training weekend in Zurich with our coach Mathias and it has been good so far. We have been working a lot on our fitness," he said.
Chirag and Satwiksairaj are currently gearing up for the All England Open after that they will spend a month-and-a-half in training to "fine-tune" their skills before coming on the court to play three back-to-back tournaments for the Olympic qualification -- India Open, Malaysia Open, and the Singapore Open. After that, the Indian top-ranked doubles pair will prove their mettle in the quadrennial event in Tokyo.
Earlier this year, the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) roped in Mathias Boe of Denmark to train them in the run-up to the Olympics. Sharing his thoughts on the coaching style of Olympic silver medalist Boe, Chirag expressed it is "quite different" to be coached by him.
"There is a lot more thought process in our mind when we play a certain stroke and we are trying to do new things that we can create as many attacking opportunities as possible. We are also working a lot on our defence. Overall, it has been really good and it is quite different from the style of coaching of our former coaches," he said.
"Every year we try to set-up our targets, for example since we started playing together we always set targets of reaching the certain rank and playing certain level of tournaments like winning Super Series tournaments and consistently playing quarterfinals and semifinals in the Super Series events. Also, we aim at entering the top five or top 10 in the world rankings and so far it has worked really well for us," he added.
Chirag feels that the Olympic village will become safer when all the athletes will be vaccinated before the games and added that he will miss the home crowd at the Tokyo Olympics as the organisers have barred international spectators from the event due to the coronavirus.
"It will be difficult to play without the home crowd but that is the case if we want to continue with the Olympics we need to abide by the guidelines. But it would be better if our home crowd would have been there," he said.
"Like our Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju said the vaccines will be given to the sportspersons in the coming weeks or months' time. I think it will definitely benefit especially the Olympic athletes because it will provide a safer environment for all the athletes. At least we have that security that all the athletes are vaccinated and they can't spread Covid-19. If all people at the village are vaccinated it will be really good for the Games," the World No. 10 ranked doubles player said.
He also admitted that the country's attitude towards sportspersons other than cricketers has changed and people are recognising and accepting players from other sports as well.
"There is a change in the attitude and mindset of people regarding sports in recent years. Earlier, if you were a cricketer then only people would have seen it as a career but right now people are recognising players from lesser popular sports like athletics, badminton, tennis, and table tennis. People do think that you can now take any sports as a career.
"Personally, I feel that we need to start the move from sports-loving country to Olympic medalist sportspersons country. The first step is to love sports and need to make sports a culture similar to what the USA is doing. They celebrate Super Bowl more like a festival than just a game. I think something of that sort should be done in India as it will bring a transition and we will become a sporting powerhouse and will get a lot of medals in the Olympics," he said.
Chirag further added that badminton infrastructure is "really good" in the country and one will see many young players coming into the game in the future.
"At the moment the badminton infrastructure is really good in India. There are a lot of courts and many more are under construction. When I started playing badminton there were not many courts but now especially in smaller cities (tier 2, tier 3 cities) there are a lot of courts and I think that will definitely help in creating better opportunities for players at the grassroots level," he concluded.
The Indian pair will take on France's Eloi Adam and Julien Maio in the first round of the All England Open. (ANI)