GOING FOR GOLD

The individual events in badminton get underway today at the Siri Fort Stadium in New Delhi. But the big guns do not take to the courts until Sunday.
At stake are five gold medals, in the men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.
Early indications are that the men’s singles and doubles titles will go to Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei and Koo Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong respectively. The trio have no peers in their events and should be able to warp up the titles come Thursday, the final day of the badminton event, incidentally the final day of the Commonwealth Games as well.
In the women’s singles, Saina Nehwal is the favourite for gold. But she will face some tough opposition from the likes of Wong Mew Choo (Malaysia), Anna Rice (Canada), Fu Mingtian (Singapore) and Elizabeth Cann (England).
The 68 minute battle between Saina and Mew Choo in the team final has shown that there are chinks in the armour of Saina, who is susceptible to drop shots on her backhand.
“It will not be easy for me as any of the other seeded players can hit form on the given day and I have to be prepared for every eventuality,” concended Daina.
But while Chong Wei is a sure bet for the title, the gold medal winner of the 2002 Manchester Games, Muhd Hafiz Hashim is aspiring to make it an all Malaysian affair in the men’s singles final.
Hafiz, who has been suffering from inconsistency since winning the All England, is aiming to make amends atr the Commonwealth Games.
The Malaysian number two will open his campaign on Monday against the winner of the David Snider (Canada) and M.Rasheed (Maldives).
Standing in his path to the final is the likes of India’s promising youngster P. Kashyap who will most likely be Hafiz’s opponent at the quarterfinals. And if the number four seed clears that, then he will be up against Rajiv Ouseph in the semis.
“There are pitfalls in evety round and the key to success will be to remain focussed in each match and not take opponents lightly,” said Hafiz.
“I am desperate to do well, and Kashyap will be a dangerous opponent in the last eight as he is growing in confidence.”
In the women’s doubles, Singapore’s Sari Shinta Mulia/Yao Lei are the top seeds. But their performance thus far has not been impressive thus giving possibility to the likes of Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnapa to land an unexpected gold for India.
But the Indians will come under severe test in the quarters where they will likely meet Malaysia’s Chin Ee Hui/Woom Khe Wei.
The mixed doubles sees England’s Nathan Robertson/Jenny Wallwork as top seeds. And they too have under performed in the team events.
It is the unseeded Malaysian pair of Koo Kien Keat/Chin Ee Hui who will come under close scrutiny. And it is in the last eight that they will cross swords with India’s V. Diju/Jwala Gutta, giving the home pair a chance to gain revenge for their loss in the team event that cost India the gold.

Satwant Singh Dhaliwal