The qualifying period for the 2024 Olympics began on May 1 and Srikanth, who is struggling with form, enlisted the services of Wiempie Mahardi to help him train.
“I have been trying to find a coach since December 2021 when Agus left. Now I have an Indonesian coach, Wiempie Mahardi. I met him when I went to Indonesia to train for three weeks. He came to India in the last week of April,” former world number one Srikanth told PTI.
India is yet to appoint a foreign coach for the men’s singles players since the abrupt departure of Indonesian Agus Dwi Santoso in December 2021. After PV Sindhu parted ways with Park Tae Sang in February, the Korean helped the men’s singles players.
“I was trying to get a trainer through TOPS but somehow it didn’t work out. In January I had sent the proposal to SAI and since then it has been pending. Being Since the Olympic qualifying period also started in May, I couldn’t hold on any longer, so I decided to do it myself,” Srikanth said.
A former world top 25 player, Mahardi has over 10 years of coaching experience, having trained players at different clubs across countries.
Srikanth achieved unprecedented success in 2017 when the Indonesian coach Mulyo Handoyo took over responsibility for training. The Indian won four titles that season. Another Indonesian coach Agus Dwi Santoso impacted him when he joined the Indian outfit in 2020.
“I don’t think it (a personal trainer) will work for everyone, but it has worked for me in the past. When Mulyo was there I did very well, and Agus was there I well done. So this Indonesian style works for me. , that’s why I needed a coach.
“It’s not easy to play without a coach, I mean that’s the minimum required for a player,” said the player who is managed by Baseline Ventures.
However, Srikanth did not have time to train with his new coach as he took part in the selection trials for the Asian Games. He finished top with six wins from as many matches to qualify for the individual events.
“I couldn’t really train with him because after I came back from the Asian badminton championships, I didn’t have time. I only had two days before the trials and two days after the trials. After the next Asian events, I hope to have time to train with him.”
Srikanth has endured a difficult 2023, managing a quarter-final in seven tournaments, which saw his ranking drop from world number 13 to 22.
“I’ve played well in the last few events, but I just couldn’t win those tight games. Once I start doing that, it will make a big difference. Let’s see what I can take away from the four next tournaments in which I participate.
“Badminton also continues to evolve, there will be someone who comes to dominate and people will have to find an alternative format.”
Srikanth had won a silver medal at the world championships in 2021 before guiding India to a historic Thomas Cup win last year.
“I did well in 2021 and 2022 until the Commonwealth Games, then others slowly started to improve and maybe I stayed there. You have to constantly improve, and that’s also a important reason to have a coach,” he said.
Only the top 20 players are directly admitted to the Asian Games, the 30-year-old from Guntur, ranked 22nd, had to participate in the selections for the first time.
“I think it’s my first time playing a tryout for the Asian Games. I’m okay as long as there’s a fixed rule. Of course it’s a bit tiring, because it’s been a while that I haven’t played two matches in one day,” said Srikanth.
“Young players won’t feel it, but it was difficult for me to play two games. When I was 19-20 I was playing 5-6 games a day, my body took that load but I can’t putting my body through it now. Also the Olympic qualifying period has started and it’s a challenge for the players.”
The next step for Srikanth is the Sudirman Cupa mixed team championship starting in Suzhou, China from May 14.
“We have a strong team, but we have to perform, as happened in the Thomas Cup. I think we have a better team. In previous years, we used to have good singles and to miss doubles. This time we have a very strong team in singles and doubles,” he said.
India were drawn with Malaysia, Chinese Taipei and Australia in Group C.
“Last time in the Thomas Cup, every game Satwik and Chirag won, it made a big difference. In most of the last Sudirman Cups, we often lost 3-2, that’s about a double wins against teams like Malaysia, Taipei, Japan or Korea, so they will make a big difference.
“With our male and female doubles doing well, it gives us a better chance this time around.”