February 29, 2020 / 10:13 PM / a month ago

Indian duo urge BWF to extend Olympic qualification period amid virus threat

(Reuters) - Indian shuttlers Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap have urged badminton’s governing body to reconsider its decision not to extend the qualification period for the Tokyo Games despite several events being cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: Badminton - Denmark Open - Women's Singles Finals - Odense Sports Park, October 21, 2018 India's Saina Nehwal against Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei (not pictured). Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix/via REUTERS/File Photo

The German Open, an Olympic qualifier which was to be held in Muelheim an der Ruhr from March 3-8, has been cancelled.

An Olympic qualifier in Vietnam was postponed from March to June. The China Masters and Polish Open have also been postponed and dropped from the Olympics qualifying process.

“It will be unfair for most of the players who are really close to qualifying for Olympics 2020,” former world number one Nehwal, who became the first Indian shuttler to win an Olympic medal with a bronze at the 2012 London Games, said on Twitter.

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) said on Friday it will not extend the qualification period to add more ranking events in the leadup to the Olympics as it will affect different players “either positively or negatively”.

Nehwal’s husband Kashyap also expressed his concerns about the reduced number of qualifying tournaments, leaving athletes with fewer opportunities to collect ranking points.

“We all had seven events starting from Spain Masters until the Singapore Open and few have the Asian Champs too,” Kashyap tweeted.

“Now that German Open is cancelled and Swiss Open looking doubtful and Singapore and Malaysia Opens also with the same worries, it will be completely unfair for so many athletes who are on the borderline of qualification at this moment... I hope all the athletes have a fair chance to qualify for the Olympics.”

The top 16 singles players in the qualification race, limited to two athletes from the same nation, are guaranteed spots in the Tokyo Games, which begin on July 24.

Nehwal is 22nd in the women’s singles qualification race, while Kashyap is 24th in the men’s.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has increased fears of a pandemic, with the World Health Organization (WHO) raising its global spread and impact risk alert to “very high”.

The BWF said it will continue to monitor the situation in countries where all other scheduled tournaments are hosted.

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; editing by Pritha Sarkar

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