The COVID-19 pandemic has "robbed" athletes of the freedom to train as per their convenience ahead of the all-important Olympic Games, says India's ace shuttler Kidambi Srikanth. (More Badminton News)
Going through multiple COVID tests and living in a bio-bubble have become the new normal for international athletes and Srikanth has experienced it all in the last few months.
"Things are not as smooth as they were before, this bio bubble and everything are little complicated to deal with and then with false positives happening, it becomes even more tricky," Srikanth told PTI in an interview.
"You can't complain if you get a positive result because you don't know if it is actually a false positive, So things are very tough now."
Srikanth, a former world number one, was left with a bloodied nose after going through multiple COVID tests ahead of the YONEX Thailand Open earlier this year.
After that, he had to withdraw from Toyota Thailand Open and stay confined to his hotel room in Bangkok for a week after his roommate and fellow shuttler B Sai Praneeth tested COVID-19 positive, which later turned out to be false.
"I feel we have lost the freedom to train according to our timings. It's been robbed. In the pre-COVID days, I could go to the gym when I wanted but now I have to go when I am provided a time. You cannot prepare the way we did before," he said.
"I couldn't play more matches in Thailand. I had to play World Tour finals straightaway without practice. In All England, I couldn't train as some players tested positive. So things didn't work my way.
"But you can't think too much about these things because you can only do what you have in your hand. You just have to adjust and live with this for the next 5-6 months at least."
He is hoping to secure an Olympic berth with good outings in the last three qualifiers.
One area where the Indian feels the Badminton World Federation (BWF) can have a look is food.
"Food is something which BWF should look into. I understand it is tough to give everyone what they want but they can take a little more care, may be a little bigger menu to select from," he said.
"The first 3-4 days in All England when we were not allowed to go out, there were not too many options, there was no rice options."
The 28-year-old Indian is now solely focussed on his performance in the last three Olympic qualifiers, starting with the India Open, which is scheduled to be held behind closed doors in the national capital from May 11 to 16.
"Initially there were many events now just three Olympic qualifiers and I just hope that these three tournaments happen. The lockdown helped me to work on myself and I am feeling much better now physically," said Srikanth, a quarterfinalist at 2016 Rio Games.
"I played three close games in the World Tour finals. I think probably one win against a top player will give me that confidence. so I have three more tournaments to prove myself."
Srikanth is placed 20th in the Race to Tokyo ranking and holds the 14th position in eorld ranking.
A finalist at the 2019 edition of India Open, Srikanth is "not sure about the rules about the rankings anymore."
"For me, it is about doing well in the three events. If I play in the three events I will be in the Olympics. It is not a very big ask," he said.
"I probably have to play a semifinal or a couple of quarterfinals. I'm actually feeling very good about my physical condition at the moment, so it is about going there and giving my best."
Srikanth had dominated the circuit in 2017, winning four titles with his attacking game.
But it seems he has lost some of his aggressive play of late.
"I was just injured and with that comes limitations but I am feeling much better now," he signed off.