Hungrier Rachel wants gold at next year’s Asian Games


PETALING JAYA: Rachel Arnold, after a medal-winning performance in Birmingham, has set a new target of winning gold in the Asian Games but it will not be in the women’s doubles.

Winning a medal in the Commonwealth Games has been a long-term goal for Rachel and she achieved it with Aifa Azman on Monday but the women’s doubles event will not be contested at next year’s Asian Games in Hangzhou (Sept 23-Oct 8).

The women’s doubles would have given Malaysia the chance to assert their authority at the continental Games as Rachel-Aifa and Chan Yiwen-Ainaa Amani Ampandi reached the last four at the Commonwealth Games.

However, Rachel is not disheartened by the setback as she will shift her attention to the mixed doubles where she will partner Syafiq Kamal. The Asian Games has introduced an unusual format where a player can compete in the team event and choose either the singles or the mixed doubles.

With S. Sivasangari, the world No. 16, and Aifa, world No. 24, ranked ahead of her in the singles, Rachel believes the mixed doubles can bring her the desired result.

The Asian Games was supposed to be held next month but was postponed due to a new Covid-19 outbreak.

However, Rachel feels the postponement is a blessing in disguise as Malaysia have sufficient time to prepare for the Games and things could get tougher for an ageing Indian team who appear to be favourites to win a lion’s share of the golds at stake.

Five gold medals – men and women’s team and singles as well as the mixed doubles – are up for grabs in Hangzhou.

“It was a great outing for us in the Commonwealth Games. We were close to beating the English pair (Sarah-Jane Perry-Alison Waters) in the last four but a few errors cost us,” said Rachel.

“It was still fantastic to win a medal and the next aim is the Asian Games where I want to go for gold in the mixed doubles and probably get another fighting chance in the team event.

“It’s a pity Aifa and me won’t be able to go for gold as there will be no women’s doubles but there is a good chance in the mixed doubles with Syafiq.

“Since we have to either choose singles or the mixed doubles, I will be focusing on the doubles.

“I will be making my debut in the Games and looking forward to a golden outing.”

India will be banking on Saurav Ghosal, 36, for the men’s singles while another veteran Joshna Chinappa, 35, would be focusing on the women’s singles.

Thirty-year-old Dipika Pallikal-Karthik, who won the world doubles with Saurav, is expected to partner a new player.

Dipika may partner Vikram Malhotra or Abhay Singh this time.

In the women’s team event, Malaysia have to topple India and Hong Kong to clinch gold while the men will be face a tough task against Pakistan.

“Our team are young and we have an advantage this time. We have 13 months to prepare for the Games and Sangari should also be back.”

A serious car accident a few weeks before the Commonwealth Games forced Sivasangari out of the action but she should be available for selection for the Asian Games.

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Rachel Arnold , Birmingham , Asian Games

   

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