New Delhi: India will have five shuttlers representing the country at the Olympics for the first time in history and national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand believes they have the best chance of winning a medal at the London Games starting July 27.
Coming into the India Open Super Series - the last qualifying event before the world ranking is freezed on May 3 -- only Saina was assured a berth but Gopichand said he was confident that others will also qualify for the Olympics.
"Every time we had two-member team for the Olympics but this time, it would be a bigger contingent for the first time but more than that I am happy because we will have the best chance of winning a medal," said Gopichand.
"I was pretty sure about Jwala and Diju and Jwala and Ashwini qualifying for the Olympics unless something miraculous goes wrong. For Rupesh and Sanave, it would have been difficult even if they had won yesterday as they have to win the tournament. They didn`t do it the whole year and that was a far ask," he said.
The Olympic bound shuttlers include Saina Nehwal (women`s singles), P Kashyap (men`s singles), Jwala Gutta (both mixed and women`s doubles) and D Viju (mixed).
Asked about the next stage of preparation for the Olympic-bound players, Gopichand said, "From now till 3rd of June, we have a month. In June, we have Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore, three back-to-back tournaments. We finish on June 24th and then we have another month as we are travelling for London on July 24. So we have four and a half weeks to go.
"It would be four weeks training now, two tournaments and then five weeks or five weeks training, two tournaments and then four weeks practice again, depending on how the players are playing," he said.
Asked about the performance of the players in the Indian Open, Gopichand said, "There is potential and there is chance. We lost 5-6 matches while serving for the match point. It has been disappointing.”
"Sai Praneeth, HS Prannoy, Sameer Verma, Guru had chance to wind up the matches. They did the hard work but couldn`t finish it which is not a good sign but the good sign is we are almost there and now we have to push them to the next level to ensure that we move to the top-five level.
"I don`t want to stress too much on various aspects but it was physically strenuous for them as they played too many tournaments because it is an Olympic year and it is not about India, around the world it is the same. We have seen Peter Gade, Chen Jin playing so many tournaments. So I think now they have qualified and it is time to prepare them for the next level," he added.
Gopichand said India has probably one of the most potential group of youngsters in the world.
"We have probably among the whole world some of the young players with potential. Sindhu was fantastic. Disappointed with Saina a bit but not really concerned about that, she still qualified for the Olympics.
"Mixed doubles, men`s doubles and women`s doubles, Rupesh and Sanave, Prannav-Prajakta, there were positives. Happy that they have come this far but there is scope for improvement," he said.
Asked if he was concerned about China manipulating ranking points even at the last moment, Gopichand said, "I can be critical of them but hats off to them, to their spirit of nationalism, they work together and it doesn`t matter who among them wins, they work together and hunt together. It is something to be proud of and we can learn from them. We can go on and criticise them but they are the best team."
Asked if India has the reserve of players, Gopichand said, "If you look at world badminton, England, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea don`t have a back up. But in men`s singles, eight names are there. All together, we have around 20 names in the top 100 but of course there is work need to be done."