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Aparna Popat

Asian Games will be tougher than Commonwealth Games: Aparna Popat

Mumbai | Former badminton player Aparna Popat said today the upcoming Asian Games will be tougher than the Commonwealth Games and it was important the players struck form ahead of the continental multi-sport event.

The former nine-time badminton national champion said Indian shuttlers are capable of beating any of the current top players and if they strike form, they will definitely come back with medals from the Asian Games. The 18th edition of the Asian Games will be held in Indonesia from August 18 to September 2.

“See it’s tough, we know that the Asian Games are going to be definitely tougher than the Commonwealth Games. But we also know that a lot of it is dictated by the form of players themselves,” the 40-year-old told reporters here. She was speaking on sidelines of a panel discussion organised by the Rotary Club of Bombay.

“By speculating now and saying yes and looking at ranking and saying yes they might or might not come with a medal, it really depends on the form that they carry into the tournament. “Because they (Indian shuttlers) are capable of beating any of the top players today, if they strike form, then they will definitely come back with medals,” added Popat, who won senior national championships from 1997 to 2006.

Popat believes that every round will be “challenging” for the Indian players in the Asian Games. Asked why she thought the Asian Games are difficult than the Commonwealth Games (CWG), she said “Because badminton is dominated mostly by Asians. “You look at the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Thais, name it, Chinese Taipei today, everybody, each and every country pretty much is quite tough and that’s why (in the) Asian Games, every round is going to be challenging (for the Indian players).”

The Commonwealth Games are held for the countries that were once under the British rule and only a handful of Asian nations take part in this international multi-sport event. The CWG were held at Gold Coast, Australia, in April this year. India won a total of 66 medals, six of which came from badminton.

The Indian contingent at the upcoming continental showpiece is headlined by the star badminton trio of K Srikanth, P V Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. Popat stressed that it was important that Saina and Sindhu struck form at the right time.

“They are experienced enough, they are champions enough to know what is required to be done at such a big event, they just have to stick to it,” Popat said when asked what would she advice Saina and Sindhu before the Asiad.

“And as I said, if they remain mentally sound and at ease and motivated enough and if they strike form, basically it is very important that they strike form at the right time,” Popat said. And the former badminton player signed off by saying that young shuttler Lasksya Sen’s real test will begin now.

Sen (16) recently won the gold medal at the Asia Junior Badminton Championships in men’s singles, defeating top -seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand 21-19, 21-18 in the final. “Well similarly I did face a sort of hurdle because after winning my silver medal at the World Junior Championships, the transition to seniors is very different.

“He is mentored by Prakash uncle (Prakash Padukone), Vimal uncle (Vimal Kumar) and trained with them. So he is in the best hands, (and should) take cognisance of the fact that your real test starts now. Much larger world is out there when it comes to seniors,” she said.

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