Indian badminton star Srikanth Kidambi clinched a historic silver medal at the BWF World Championships in Huelva. He had already made history by reaching the final and eventually finished second on the podium after a straight-game defeat against the red-hot Loh Kean Yew of Singapore in the summit clash on Sunday. It marked the best ever performance for India in the men’s singles.
A former world no. 1, Srikanth lost 15-21 20-22 to Malaysia-born opponent in 43 minutes.
The 28-year-old Srikanth thus bettered the feats of legendary Prakash Padukone (bronze in 1983), B Sai Praneeth (bronze in 2019) and Lakshya Sen (bronze in this edition), whom he had beaten in the semifinals on Saturday.
The silver also placed Srikanth alongside PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, who had finished runner-up in the past.
Here’s a look at some of the key achievements by the Indians in Huevla:
Streak continuing since 2011 London...
You know Indian badminton is a good place when they keep winning medals at the World Championships. Sindhu had won the coveted gold in 2019 to add to her two silvers and two bronzes in past competitions, while Saina claimed the silver at the 2015 Jakarta and a bronze at 2017 Glasgow. Sai Praneeth won a bronze medal in Basel too.
This time, Srikanth and Sen added to India’s medal tally and made it the first time that India won two medals in men’s singles at the World Championships.
The recent showing continues India’s unbroken run on the podium since 2011 and shows once again how far Indian badminton has come in the last decade. The long wait first ended in London when Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa won bronze in women’s doubles, 28 years after Padukone’s efforts in Copenhagen.
Medals won by Indians at Badminton Worlds
|1983||Copenhagen||Prakash Padukone (bronze)|
|2011||London||Jwala Gutta & Ashwini Ponnappa (bronze)|
|2013||Guangzhou||PV Sindhu (bronze)|
|2014||Copenhagen||PV Sindhu (bronze)|
|2015||Jakarta||Saina Nehwal (silver)|
|2017||Glasglow||PV Sindhu (silver)|
|2017||Glasglow||Saina Nehwal (bronze)|
|2018||Nanjing||PV Sindhu (silver)|
|2019||Basel||B Sai Praneeth (bronze)|
|2019||Basel||PV Sindhu (gold)|
|2021||Huelva||Lakshya Sen (bronze)|
|2021||Huelva||Srikanth Kidambi (silver)|
A singles finalist for the fifth straight edition
This run since 2011 comes down mostly to PV Sindhu but Srikanth’s progress is a promising sign that cannot be ignored. It’s been a good decade for Indian badminton, and it shows the progress made when the Indian shuttlers are consistently on the podium at the big ticket events.
India’s appearances in the finals at Worlds:
2015: Saina Nehwal
2017: PV Sindhu
2018: PV Sindhu
2019: PV Sindhu
2021: Srikanth Kidambi
At the same time, India will hope this record can inspire a few more youngsters to progress to the later rounds. Sindhu is 26 and Srikanth is now 29 and India will dearly want the next generation to start making an impression on the circuit. Lakshya has started the process and a few more players could show that Indian badminton will continue to be in a good space in the coming years as well.
Sindhu’s rare miss
For Sindhu however, the 2021 edition was only the second ever time she finished without a medal at this event. Right from her debut as a teenager in 2013 when she won bronze. the Worlds is where Sindhu enjoyed her best moments. In Huelva, she kept her run of reaching at least the quarterfinals going despite running into Pornpawee Chochuwong in the third round. But the draw pitted her against Tai Tzu Ying in the quarterfinals... and she couldn’t find a way past her this time around. So 2015 and 2021 became the only two editions that Sindhu didn’t finish on the podium of the Worlds.
First-ever edition with two men winning medals
After a great spell in 2017 and at the start of 2018, it seemed like men’s singles badminton in India was in a downward spiral recently. Srikanth had a loss of form and injuries slowed down his record, HS Prannoy had to deal with illness and injuries, Sai Praneeth was inconsistent, Sameer Verma impressed in patches but the big push hasn’t come and Lakshya was still finding his feet at the senior level. But with the exception of Sai Praneeth, all the others put their best foot forward in the tournament in Huelva and that is cause for great joy. It finally feels like the wheels are starting to move for the men too. The positive end of the year will give all the players great confidence going into 2022.
Wait continues for doubles
Seeded 8th, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty were expected to be in contention for a podium finish and after starting well, their tournament came to an end in the third round. The men’s doubles field is already wide open right now and in the absence of Indonesians in Huelva, there was a window open for the Indians but they ran into the brilliant Malaysians in the third round. Ong/Teo then went on to defeat the Olympic champions Wang/Lee in the next round, a pair that Satwik/Chirag had defeated in Tokyo. The bronze that the Malaysians won could easily have been the Indians but for a few costly errors in their match. Either way, they have time on their side and can hope to be the pair that ends the wait for a first ever men’s doubles World Championships medal for India.
Corrections and clarifications: The article originally said ‘Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa won bronze in women’s doubles, 38 years after Padukone’s efforts in Copenhagen’, it has been rectified to 28.