Badminton: Olympic bid by Chrisnanta, Neo thwarted again

Vanessa Neo and Danny Bawa Chrisnanta competing at the OUE Singapore Open earlier this month. The Singapore mixed doubles pair failed for a second consecutive time to qualify for the Olympics, after their Badminton Asia Championships defeat on Tuesday.
Vanessa Neo and Danny Bawa Chrisnanta competing at the OUE Singapore Open earlier this month. The Singapore mixed doubles pair failed for a second consecutive time to qualify for the Olympics, after their Badminton Asia Championships defeat on Tuesday. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Another four years committed to training and chasing ranking points has ended again in a barren run for badminton mixed doubles pair Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Vanessa Neo.

The duo's first-round exit at the Badminton Asia Championships (BAC) on Tuesday also meant the door to this August's Olympic Games has closed on them, with no more time or tournaments left for the Singaporeans to make a last-ditch bid.

The Badminton World Federation's world ranking list published next week will be used to allocate quota places to athletes and the pair, ranked 25th, fell behind a Thai and Japanese pair in the pecking order.

It is the second straight miss for the two, who were first reserves in the qualification process for the 2012 London Olympics.

Neo told The Straits Times from Wuhan, China, yesterday, where the BACs are in progress: "I'm disappointed that I'm unable to qualify again, but I've already put in my best effort.

"I'm thankful that I was given the opportunity to compete in this Olympic race. Without sponsors and the SBA, it wouldn't have been possible."

While the pair's results have not been ideal in months, an upset of world No. 8 and All England champions Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto of Indonesia this month had reignited hope.

But they suffered first-round exits at their next three tournaments, including the OUE Singapore Open on home soil.

This also means that the squad competing at the Rio Games will be the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA)'s smallest yet since the 2004 edition.

The Republic fielded three shuttlers (two events) in Athens, five shuttlers (four events) in Beijing, and four (three events) at the last Games. Singles players Derek Wong and Liang Xiaoyu will likely be the only qualifiers this time.

In comparison, other top-funded national sport associations like sailing, shooting and swimming have all had breakthroughs in qualifying more athletes to the quadrennial event this time.

National chief coach Chua Yong Joo said while Chrisnanta and Neo were among the world's top 10 pairs in 2013, competition has become much stiffer since.

"There are a lot of up-and-coming pairs from other countries, who may have as many as four to five equally good pairs each.

"In terms of results, we haven't been as consistent."

He added that the departure of significant shuttlers in recent years has also hurt the depth of talent in the senior team. Without 2012 Olympian Yao Lei, in particular, the national team no longer had a consistent women's doubles pair. Gu Juan, Fu Mingtian, Terry Yeo and Ashton Chen also hung up their rackets.

"A number of key players left, so we don't have a big pool of players able to fight for qualification," said Chua, who noted that the national team is transitioning to include more local-born shuttlers than before.

He said: "The others are really young and not ready to fight for Olympic qualification. I won't say that we're taking a step backwards.

"Going forward, we'll likely have more local-born players on the team and I really do hope they can take up this challenge."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2016, with the headline 'Olympic bid by Chrisnanta, Neo thwarted again'. Print Edition | Subscribe