Shevon joins Saina in call for Games qualifying extension

Uphill task: Soon Huat and Shevon are running out of tournaments to qualify for the Olympics because of the Covid-19 outbreak which has forced several meets to be postponed.

PETALING JAYA: National mixed doubles shuttler Shevon Lai Jemie has backed India Saina Nehwal’s call for Badminton World Federation (BWF) to extend the Olympic qualifying period in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Several tournaments, including this week’s German Open that offer valuable Olympic ranking points, have been postponed due to concerns over the virus.

The status of the All-England and Swiss Open, slated for the next two weeks, are also in major doubt with a significant increase in number of cases having been reported in the past two weeks in Europe.

There are 36 confirmed cases in England and 24 in Switzerland as of yesterday.

With the one-year qualification period ending on April 30, Saina took to her Twitter account to express her concern, she wrote: “Qualification period can be extended if the tournaments are cause of #coronavirus...It will be unfair for most of the players who are really close to qualifying for Olympics 2020.”

Saina also tagged the BWF and International Olympic Committee in the post.

Saina, who created history as the first-ever Indian shuttler to win an Olympics medal when she clinched bronze at the 2012 edition in London, is bidding for a fourth straight appearance at the quadrennial Games.

But the 29-year-old has a massive task to break into the top 16 in the Race to Tokyo rankings to join compatriot P. V. Sindhu. Saina currently sits at 22nd spot.

In Malaysia, Shevon, too, is losing sleep over the uncertainties.

She and partner Goh Soon Huat were supposed to compete in the German Open in Mulheim but were left stranded in France together with the other national team members who recently took part in the Spain Masters.

They are currently training in Paris.

Like Saina, Soon Huat-Shevon are also equally desperate for points to crack the top eight standings in the mixed doubles race. They are in the 10th spot at the moment.

“I think many would agree with Saina, ” said Shevon.

“A few tournaments have been cancelled, and that is taking the opportunities away to gain some precious points from players like us.

“Having missed quite a number of tournaments through Soon Huat’s injury last year, we worked very hard to put our qualification bid back on track.

“It would be great if BWF can grant us more time as it means the world to players who are still trying to make the cut.

BWF had stated last week that they would not make any adjustments to the Olympic qualification period despite them shelving one after another tournament due to Covid-19.

The world body could probably extend it until June as some other other sports. The athletics and swimming, for instance, have their cut-off date set on June 29, while the qualifiers for golf will be chosen based on the the June 22 world rankings.

There’s no shortage of events should BWF change their mind. There are still four World Tour events lined up in June — Australian Open, Thailand Open, Indonesian Open and US Open.

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