Malaysia Open Super 750 tournament, one of badminton’s last two Olympic qualifying events, was on Friday postponed due to a recent Covid-19 surge in the host country, dealing a blow to the Tokyo hopes of Indian shuttlers like Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth.
The $600,000 event was scheduled to be held in Kuala Lumpur from May 25 to 30.
“All attempts were made by the organisers and BWF to provide a safe tournament environment for all participants, but the recent surge in cases left no choice but to postpone the tournament,” Badminton World Federation said in a statement.
“BWF can confirm the rescheduled tournament will no longer take place in the Olympic qualifying window. New tournament dates will be confirmed at a later date.”
The decision comes as a setback for London Olympics bronze-medallist Saina and men’s star Srikanth’s last hopes of Olympic qualification. The two former world No 1s are not in the qualification bracket things stand.
Earlier in April, the BWF had announced the same decision for India Open, a Super 500 event, that was scheduled in Delhi for 11-16 May.
Badminton Association of India on Friday reached out to the world body, seeking clarity on the qualification scenario for its shuttlers, reported PTI.
“It’s really unfortunate that the crucial qualifier had to be postponed in this way but that is the time we live in now,” BAI General Secretary Ajay Singhania said in a statement.
“Though four of our players have already qualified and there are few more including Saina and Srikanth who can still make it. I have reached out to BWF Secretary Thomas Lund asking for clarity on the future course of action.”
Following the postponement of these events, Saina and Srikanth’s qualification for the Tokyo Games hinged on the Kuala Lumpur event followed by the Singapore Open (June 1-6), which now becomes the final chance to earn Race to Tokyo points.
It remains to be seen if Indian shuttlers will be able to travel to Singapore as the country has suspended all flights from Covid-19 hit India.
“We will do whatever best possible can be done to find a better way out so that the shuttlers get the chance to secure the Olympic berths if there is any scope and opportunity,” Singhania said.
BAI had earlier said that as per the laid-out guidelines, for any Indian to enter Singapore, they have to either be in quarantine in a foreign country other than India for 14 days to be allowed to enter Singapore.
Malaysia too has banned all flights from India and BAI had been exploring alternative routes to reach there via Doha or Sri Lanka but with the suspension of the Kuala Lumpur event, efforts would now likely be directed towards Singapore.
Indian shuttlers who are in the qualification slots for the Olympics as things stand are PV Sindhu, B Sai Praneeth and the men’s doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy.
Besides the quartet, Srikanth, Saina and the women’s doubles pair of N Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa were supposed to participate in the two Olympic qualifiers to find a late boost of points and they would have needed two strong showings to have a chance.