RevSportz Exclusive II “Yes there will be pressure but we will seek to enjoy the Olympics” – Satwik-Chirag on Paris 2024

Satwik-Chirag with Gopi Sir after winning the French Open 2024
Satwik-Chirag with Gopi Sir after winning the French Open 2024 (PC: Boria Majumdar)

They are in red-hot form at the moment, and proved it at the French Open Super 750 in Paris. Completely dominant in the final, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty  have now played three tournaments this year and made the finals in each of them. If Pullela Gopichand, the badminton national head coach, is to be believed, they are India’s best bet for a gold medal at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. “If they play to potential, they have the best chance to win the gold,” said Gopi moments after they had closed out the final. “In fact, if they play one notch below their best, even then they should win the gold. They are that good.”

Saying that the tournament win in Paris would help them a lot in their Olympic preparation, Satwik and Chirag were cautiously optimistic about their Olympic chances. They know that it could be the highest moment in their careers.

Excerpts from the conversation:

Boria: How much does it help that the ongoing tournament was at the same venue which will be used for the Olympics?

Chirag: It will help a lot. You get yourself familiar with things and given that we hadn’t played in this venue, it is of serious help because we now know what to expect come the Olympics. It is always about preparation and to be the best prepared, we need to know as much of what we might encounter. Playing this tournament in the same venue and winning it is the kind of perfect preparation we need.

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Satwik-Chirag with the Trophy
Satwik-Chirag with the Trophy (PC: BAI)

Boria: The more you win, the more pressure there will be during the Olympics. You have started the year in stellar fashion. Multiple finals already, and now the win. Do you think these performances will add to the expectations, and in turn add to the pressure on you both?

Satwik: If I say to you there will be no pressure on us when we go to the Olympics, we will be lying. There will indeed be pressure. But then, that’s why we play sport. The first thing is we accept and understand there is pressure. And then, try and use it in a positive way. Pressure can be seen as an opportunity or it can be seen as a burden. We try to see it as an opportunity. If we win an Olympic medal, what impact can that have on the sport and on the future of badminton in India? We wanted more visibility, more people to follow, more fans to see badminton. Today, when it is happening, we can’t be complaining about pressure.

Boria: Is there any particular thing you both want to really focus on ahead of the Olympics? I mean you both are playing near-perfect badminton!

Chirag: There is never an end to improvement. You need to keep learning. But if you really want us to dig deep and tell you, we still need to improve our defence to be at par with some of the best defensive teams in the world. Take the Koreans, for example. They are a team with a fantastic defence. We have a very strong attacking game and there is no need for us to change our game, but the endeavour is to make our defence better and as close to the best, for that’s what makes you that extra bit sharper.

Boria: You played the Tokyo games in 2021 and did really well. I have to say you both were unlucky to not make it to the next stage after beating the eventual gold medallists. Will the experience of playing an Olympic Games help going into Paris?

Satwik: Absolutely, it will. When I went to Tokyo, never did I think I will be playing an Olympic Games for India. Never did I think I will win a Super 1000 with Chirag. Or a Super 750 or a Super 500. You don’t start playing thinking you will win an Asian Games or a World Championship medal. It has all happened in the course of our careers. Now we know what it is like to be at the Olympics and will try to enjoy Paris. Yes, there will be pressure but you still need to enjoy. Soak it all in, and because we know what to expect, we can actually enjoy the moment.

Another Dominating Tournament for Satwik-Chirag
Another Dominating Tournament for Satwik-Chirag (PC: Boria Majumdar)

Boria: You both have won everything that there is to win. And now, another French Open title. So you clearly have the potential. Is it the word “Olympics” that makes it different? The moment you think you are playing the Olympics, can things become different?

Chirag: Yes, you are right in saying that. It is a different thing altogether. It is the world’s greatest sports competition and inevitably the build-up and everything about it is different. You know it is the one medal you are after, and at a subconscious level, that’s what builds pressure. You have been waiting for four years for this one competition. The World Championship or the Super Series tournaments come every year. The Olympics come every four years. And that’s why you can’t fail. All of this taken together makes it different.

Boria: Finally, a word on the next few weeks – the All England next, and then how do you want to prepare for the home stretch?

Satwik: We will focus on one tournament at a time. We have the All England next week, and these are tournaments you want to win. And each win adds to your confidence. We will ensure we are the best prepared for Paris, for that’s what we will give us the best chance. We will control our preparation to the best of our ability and focus on things we can control. We can control the process, and not the result. If the process is right, results will surely come.

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