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Sindhu wants Hafiz Hashim as coach in Paris 2024 race

Indian badminton superstar PV Sindhu is trying to hire the services of former All England Open champion Muhammad Hafiz Hashim of Malaysia in her pursuit for an Olympic gold at next year’s Paris 2024 Games.

The two-time Olympic medallist has written to the Sports Authority of India (SAI), seeking its approval to train under the Malaysian as part of the Sports Ministry’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).

“I think SAI will approve her proposal. She is an elite player for India and is likely to be the only woman singles badminton player to qualify for Paris Olympics,” former national coach Vimal Kumar told PTI.

The proposal might come up in the next Mission Olympic Cell (MOC) meeting, where members of MOC could discuss key agenda points of India’s Olympic programme and proposals of TOPS athletes.

“One coach can’t deal with so many top players, they need individual attention. Even internationally, Viktor Axelsen has a different coach and now Sindhu is also trying different coaches.

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“She had a good two to three years with Park (Tae-Sang) and now Hafiz. See, I don’t know how good are his coaching credentials but he has been a good player 20 years back. Sometimes all it takes is a spark,” Vimal said.

Sindhu, 27, has looked off colour this season after returning from a five-month long injury layoff following a stress fracture on her ankle en route her Commonwealth Games gold in August last year.

The highlight this season has been a final finish at the Madrid Spain Masters Super 300 and a semifinal at the Malaysia Masters Super 500 for Sindhu, who made early exits from a series of events at the start of the year.

In February, she parted ways with Korean coach Park Tae-Sang, who was instrumental in her winning the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 2019 world champion, who slipped out of the top 10 in April for the first time since 2016, has been working with SAI coach Vidhi Chaudhary.

The MOC had approved Sindhu’s proposal to financially assist her coach towards accompanying her to the All England Championships, Swiss Open, and Spain Masters.

The Olympic qualification period for the 2024 Games began from May 1 and Sindhu has worked with Hafiz for the past two weeks at the Suchitra badminton Academy ahead of the upcoming events, starting with next week’s Canada Open.

“Sindhu will have to deal with it more than the coach. She has to focus on her thought process and application,” Vimal said.

“She is a top level player and one or two good wins against top players can change things around quickly for her.” While national chief coach Pullela Gopichand has been her mentor, Sindhu has worked briefly with Kim Ju Hyun on way to her World Championships gold in Basel. Since Kim left abruptly, she has been training with Park.

Hafiz, the 2002 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, was a junior coach at the Badminton Association of Malaysia before he joined the Suchitra Academy in Hyderabad in February on a three-year contract.

Sindhu had sought the guidance of the 40-year-old, who was also the coach of Awadhe Warriors in the Premier Badminton League, during her visit to the Suchitra Academy where she goes for strength and conditioning coaching under trainer Srikanth Verma.

“Sindhu is absolutely fine. She is coming back to her best slowly. She has been working with Hafiz for two weeks,” Srikanth said.

“Our main objective is prevention of injuries and maintaining her fitness. So identifying what needs to be done after matches and tournaments and then making a specific programme is important.”

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