Rio-bound Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth said on Wednesday that Saina Nehwal’s performance at the 2008 Beijing Games was his first memory of the Olympics. The 23-year-old World No.11 also added that his below-par season had taught him valuable lessons and he hopes to emerge as a dark horse at Rio.
The Karnataka lad came into the limelight back in 2014 after he defeated two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion Lin Dan in the 2014 China Open. A title triumph in the Indian Open next year propelled him to No.3 in the BWF World rankings, but everything went downhill from there.
Despite initial promise he struggled to cross the opening round of multiple high profile tournaments in 2016 and rapidly fell down in the rankings. Speaking to PTI, Srikanth opened up about his low phase and said that he was never worried about the Olympic qualification.
"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," Srikanth, currently ranked World No. 11, told PTI.
Srikanth came into the limelight back in 2014 after he defeated two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion Lin Dan in the 2014 China Open.
"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 (Asian Badminton Championships), 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," he explained.
Also, read: Kidambi Srikanth: raising India's Olympic hopes
Talking about the Olympics, Srikanth said that his first memories of the quadrennial event
"I never watched or followed Olympics as a child. My first memory of Olympics was watching Saina Nehwal play at the Beijing Games quarterfinals.
"It was that moment when I sort of thought that what if I could play at the Olympics someday. Ever since it has been a dream of playing there, every time you see someone play at the Olympics, you want to be there.
"I was happy to qualify. It was a big dream. I knew it but in May to actually officially qualify was a big moment. I hope I can make India proud,” he added.
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"
With top badminton stars like Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei and China’s Chen Long favourites for the title at Rio, Srikanth acknowledged the tough competition in store and said that he is happy to be an underdog.
"They are the most experienced players who have played in the last 2-3 Olympics and I think they will have an advantage. 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," said the 2013 Thailand Grand Prix Gold champion.
"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," added Srikanth, reported PTI.
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