Former world no.1 Malaysian badminton superstar Lee Chong Wei made deep inroads into BWF world ranking after his comeback in May 2015 from an 8-month doping ban. In June 2015, Lee’s world ranking had dropped to 180, when he came back to courts first time after late 2014, when the ban was slapped on him. But successive Super-series victories at France, China, Hong Kong and other tournaments helped Lee to quickly ascend the ladder and with 77153 points as of February 25, 2016, Lee is now right behind the first ranked Chinese Chen Long, who has amassed a whopping 96931 points. Going into 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Lee is a formidable challenger. Especially because 2008 & 2012 Gold Medalist Lin Dan of China is languishing at 5th place with 74277 points.
As per the Olympic Committee, period for Rio Qualification will account for performances of badminton players during May 04, 2015 and May 01, 2016. Lee, who lost to Lin Dan in the gold medal matches at Beijing and London, will be hell bent on turning the tables this time round. But the fastest court game in the world has other contenders, who cannot be written off easily. China’s Chen Long is the most favorite to win with his superb performance in 2015. But the unpredictable Lin Dan and a highly motivated Lee Chong Wei cannot be counted off. Others in range are; world no.3 Japan’s Kento Momota; Denmark’s world no.4 Jan O Jorgensen; Taiwan’s Chou Tien Chen; Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen; Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto; Korea’s Son Wan Ho and Hong Kong’s Hu Yun. India’s Kidambi Srikanth has dropped to no.10 in the world and he is not being counted as a gold medal hope at Rio.
As per rules, no country can field more than two players or pairs in each category of the Olympic Games. China, Hong Kong, Denmark and Korea are almost certain to send two players in men’s singles for the Rio Games. In men and women’s singles a maximum of 38 players will find entry while in doubles, the field is restricted to 16 pairs. In men’s singles, 4 players have already qualified. They are Host Brazil’s top star Ygor Coelho de Oliveira, Pan Am champion; Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon, Africa winner Uganda’s Edwin Ekiring and Australia’s Oceania winner Low Pit Seng. World rankings aside, the Olympic qualifications show Srikanth as the only Indian at 12th place and sure of qualifying. With little time left until May 2016, qualification will be difficult for India’s Ajay Jayaram, who is 21st, Parupalli Kashyap 28th, Sai Praneeth 29th and HS Prannoy 40th.
In women’s singles, Fabiana Silva goes through as Brazil’s representative but plenty of other places still remain to be filled. As per latest trends, Spain’s World champion Carolina Marin is not only a certain entry but the gold medal prospect as well. Of the three fantastic Chinese players; Wang Yihan, Li Xuerui and Wang Shixian, only two will go to Rio. Other certain entrants in women’s singles are Dubai World Super-series champion Nozomi Okuhara, Korean Sung Ji Hyun, Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, India’s Saina Nehwal, Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying, Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi Korea’s Bae Yeon Ju, Canada’s Pan Am champion Michelle Li and India’s PV Sindhu. Thus India, China, Japan and Korea will each have two women singles players each at Rio 2016.
With race for Rio going into final phase, there will be tough contests among national teammates in several cases. In women’s singles, there are many Japanese, who richly deserve a place in Olympic team. While Okuhara an
d Yamaguchi could go through, other contenders include; Minatsu Mitani, Sayaka Sato, Yui Hashimoto and Sayaka Takahashi.
In doubles, the contest for qualification will be even hotter. With only 16 pairs being permitted in each doubles category, Denmark’s Mads Pieler Kolding/Mads Conrad-Petersen could miss out despite their 9th rank overall if they couldn’t overhaul their 8th placed compatriots Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen. Likewise, there will be close contest between two Malaysian pairs; Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong at 11th place and Koo Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong at 12th. Sure shot entries in men’s doubles are; Korea’s Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong, Indonesians Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan, China’s Fu Haifeng/Zhang Nan and Chai Biao/Hong Wei, Korea’s Kim Gi Jung/Kim Sa Rang and Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa. For India, Manu Attri/Sumeeth Reddy are likely to make Olympic grade along with Russians Vladimir Ivanov/Ivan Sozonov and England’s Marcus Ellis/Chris Langridge.
In women’s doubles, only one Chinese pair could make the grade. Luo Ying/Luo Yu are way ahead of others because China has been experimenting with several combinations of late and other pairs are far behind. The confirmed entries could be; Indonesia’s Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari; Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl; Japan’s Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi; Korea’s Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee and Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan; Netherlands’ Eefje Muskens/Selena Piek and a second Japanese pair, Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao. Pam Am champions, USA’s Eva Lee Lee/Paula Lynn Obanana will also qualify along with Australia’s Oceania winners Setyana Mapasa/Gronya Somerville. From Africa, Egypt’s Menna Eltanany/Nadine Ashraf have already qualified.
In mixed doubles, China’s 3 pairs among top six are; defending champions Zhang Nan/ZhaoYunlei, Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin and Xu Chen/Ma Jin. Korea will be represented by Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na and Indonesia by Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir. Likewise, England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock, Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto, Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen and Hong Kong’s Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah will also make the cut for 2016 Rio Games.