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Asian Games: Satwik/Chirag adds golden chapter to India's badminton history

So, Gopichand's prediction that "I think Chirag and Satwik could go all the way in men's doubles" was met with scepticism.

Asian Games: Satwik/Chirag adds golden chapter to Indias badminton history

HANGZHOU: While answering questions from the media after HS Prannoy had bagged a bronze medal in the men's singles, India's chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand said that his top doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty can go all the way to the final.

The Indian pair were yet to play the doubles semifinal against a strong Malaysian combination of Aaron Chia Teng Fong and Soh Wooi Yik, who were ranked fifth in the BWF Ranking while the Indians were placed ninth.

Also, Shetty and Rankireddy were not in the best of conditions going into the match -- while Shetty has still not recovered from viral fever he caught on his way here, the duo had very indifferent form this season including a first-round exit in the China Open and a quarterfinal defeat at the World Championship preceding the Asian Games.

So, Gopichand's prediction that "I think Chirag and Satwik could go all the way in men's doubles" was met with scepticism.

But the ace men's double pair made history on Saturday as it claimed the first gold medal for India in the Asian Games badminton competition, beating the Republic of Korea's Choi Solgyu and Kim Wonho in straight games in the final, winning 21-18, 21-16 in a match that lasted three minutes short of an hour.

From 1962 to 2018, India had won only one silver and nine bronze medals in badminton at the Asian Games. In Hangzhou, they added a gold, silver and bronze medal each to the tally, making it the most successful Asian Games ever for India.

But when it all started two weeks back, not many had given much hope to the Indian men's doubles. At best, they were considered as bronze medal contenders.

"When we came here for the Hangzhou Asian Games, we were not playing that well. We lost in the first round of the China Open (September 2023) and we didn't play well in the World Championships (August 2023) either. We were at a low point.

"We had to do a lot better, so I think it can't get any bigger than this. Winning the gold medal after winning silver in the team event was very important for us," said Shetty, the 26-year-old from Mumbai.

Shetty said things came together for them after their loss to South Korea in the semifinals of the men's team competition.

"We lost to another Korean pair (Kang Minhyuk and Seo Saungjae) in the semifinals and that's when I thought things started coming together for us, especially in the second game. After that I told Mathias (Boe, doubles coach for the India national badminton team) that I have got back my rhythm," said Shetty during a post-final press conference.

The next day, they defeated a top Chinese pair in the Men's Team final and went on to win the gold medal.

"I am very happy. It has been very challenging for us, these last two weeks," said Rankireddy, the 23-year-old from Andhra Pradesh.

"We decided to work very hard, we trained even on Sundays. The only aim was to come here and give our best. To play to the best of our abilities, as hard as we do in training and let God decide to do what he wants to do," said SAtwik.

They both thanked their coaches and support staff for the effort they put into helping them win the gold medal.

Shetty said the turning point in the match was their comeback from 15-18 down in the first game.

"I think Satwik pulled us level from 18-15 (in the first game), playing some good shots. At 18-18, I got a little more confident. And when we took the first one, I knew were in the game," he said.

Though the enormity of their triumph is yet to sink in, Rankireddy said that they just wanted to do their best in the match.

"Before the match, we did not think anything about this. We just wanted to have fun on the court. We did not sleep last night because of the excitement (over making the final). I was up till 5 a.m.," said Rankireddy. Shetty too said he did not sleep the entire night and just kept tossing and turning in the bed till 9 am.

Maybe that seems to have worked as the two Indians made history for Indian badminton, capping a historic Asian Games in Hangzhou.

The men's team made history by winning the silver medal, HS Prannoy won a bronze, the first medal in men's singles at the Asian Games since Syed Modi in 1982. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty just provided the gold icing on the cake for Indian badminton.

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