When Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty begin their journey to a fresh season in January 2024 at the Malaysia Open, the season-opening Super 1000 BWF World Tour event, in Kuala Lumpur, they will have their eyes set on the most coveted prize of the year, the Paris Olympics gold medal.
To stand a chance to achieve the elusive feat for Indian badminton, Satwik and Chirag said they will be selective about tournaments in the forthcoming season.
“Our main aim is to give our best in the competitions that we decide to compete in and ensure that we do not play a lot of tournaments. We want to decide on the events accordingly. We do not want to play 3-4 back-to-back tournaments,” Chirag said in an interview with Times of India.
“Olympics are different compared to other tournaments. It is not easy. The feeling is also different compared to tournaments like the Super Series. At the Olympics, there are no favourites. It is about 16 top pairs, and every team will give it its all. There will be no easy matches, it is going to be tough,” stated Satwik.
The former world no. 1 Indian pair, currently ranked second, will come off to the new season refreshed with an adequate break and rest from the hectic events of the World Tour. Satwik and Chirag’s stellar 2023 season ended in November with a runner-up finish at the China Masters, their first in nine finals.
They missed the World Tour Finals in December despite having a stellar season, where they attained the world no. 1 ranking, and won historic Asian Championships and Asian Games gold. They also claimed their maiden Super 1000 title at the Indonesia Open along with the Korea Open and Swiss Open titles.
Going into the new season, the duo will look to make an amend to their Olympic campaign this time around, while also gunning for the elusive All England Open crown. In Tokyo, three years back, their pursuit for the gold medal ended in a disappointing group stage exit.
“2023 has been a great year for us, but it is important to keep ourselves fresh and fit. Going into 2024, the Olympics is the biggest target for us. That said, there are other competitions which we have not won yet, like the All England. Hopefully 2024 will be another great year,” said Chirag.
Currently, Satwik-Chirag is placed at the fifth spot in the ‘Race to Paris – Olympic qualification’ rankings. Only the top eight pairs from across the world will qualify for the Games and a maximum of two pairings from a country are eligible to contest in the marquee event.
‘We just want to enjoy’
Given their ability and achievements to win marquee events like that of the Asian Games gold, which is India’s first ever yellow metal in badminton at the continental showpiece, the duo is well aware of the fact that there will be pressure of expectations on them from here on.
But Satwik does not want to think too much about it.
“There were great expectations in the Asian Games and we managed to pull it off. We want to do well at the Olympics but we don’t want to pressurise ourselves by thinking too much about it. We just want to enjoy and focus on what we can do,” said Satwik.