Kidambi Srikanth isn’t a name that would be on the list of favourites to win gold in the men’s singles badminton event at the Olympics next month, but the Indian shuttler is more than happy to be a “dark horse”.
The world number 11 will be representing India in Rio de Janeiro, but is expected to face stiff competition from the likes of Lee Chong Wei, Chen Long and Lin Dan, who has won gold in the last two Olympics.
Srikanth has acknowledged that he will be in for a tough challenge, but said he is pleased that there is no pressure on him.
“They are the most experienced players who have played in the last 2-3 Olympics and I think they will have an advantage,” he told PTI. “But it doesn’t help everyone all the time. It can help to get a few close points but then there are so many players who win a tournament or a medal playing for the first time. So it doesn’t help always.
“It is tough for the top players because there are too many expectations and pressure, so I am happy being a dark horse or an underdog.”
Since winning the Syed Modi International Badminton Championships at the end of January, Srikanth has struggled to get past the early stages of tournaments, and has only reached the semi-finals of one tournament, the Australian Open in June, since his early success.
During that period, Srikanth wasn’t concerned about whether he would qualify for the Olympics, but rather the toll that his string of poor performances was taking on his game.
“I was tense but not for my qualification, it was my game that I was worried about since I knew if I can play well, I will automatically qualify,” he said. “I was not worried about my ranking, I was worried because I was not getting time to train. I was playing one event after another whether it was PBL, Malaysia, SAF games, or German Open or ABC, there was simply no time.
“But I think it kind of helped me identify the areas where I need to work on and it helped me in my preparation of Olympics. Every match counts, every tournament counts, whether it is a win or loss, it is all about how you take it. you need to take the positives out of every match you play. So it kind of helped me.”
Srikanth admitted that he is delighted to be representing India at the Olympics and is hoping to do his country proud next month.
“I was happy to qualify. It was a big dream,” he said. “I knew it but in May to actually officially qualify was a big moment. I hope I can make India proud.”