BWF: Qualifying process for Tokyo to begin only in 2021

India's Pusarla V. Sindhu hits a return against Taiwan's Tai Tzu-ying during their women singles quarter-final match at the Malaysia Open badminton tournament in Kuala Lumpur on January 10, 2020. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP) (Photo by MOHD RASFAN/AFP via Mohd RASFAN / AFP

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) has updated its Olympic qualification regulations for the Tokyo Games, saying the qualifying process will only resume in 2021 and players will retain the existing points earned under the Race to Tokyo ranking list. The update comes after leading players criticised the original schedule, which crammed in 22 tournaments between August and December this year.

Further, the tournaments that were postponed, suspended or cancelled due to Covid-19 will be held within the first 17 weeks of 2021. A few days ago, the federation had released a revamped calendar starting August this year which consisted of eight rescheduled events, including the India Open Super 500 in New Delhi, in December. The packed calendar, more precisely 22 events in five months' time, for the remainder of 2020 had drawn criticism from Indian players. None of these events, the BWF has now clarified, will count towards the qualification.

Among Indian players, PV Sindhu, Sai Praneeth and the men's doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy had already qualified for the Games by virtue of finishing within the top 16.

In stating that only the 2021 editions of these events will be counted, the BWF noted that the next editions of these tournaments must be conducted within week 1-17 of 2021 to be considered eligible for qualification. Both Malaysia Open Super 750 and India Open, which were cancelled earlier and have been rescheduled for end of this year, it then implies, will have to complete their 2021 edition within the first 17 weeks of next year.

Additionally, players from Hong Kong and China will be eligible to earn points from the 2021 Badminton Asia Team Championships since they were not able to participate in this year's edition of the event due to travel restrictions.

Speaking on the decision, BWF secretary general Thomas Lund said: "We feel this is a fair solution for all athletes and it will be our first and main priority to conduct these tournaments as part of badminton and para badminton's adjusted return in the wake of Covid-19. Although we aim to resume international tournaments towards the end of 2020, we have chosen to resume the Olympic and Paralympic qualification process only in 2021 to ensure that travel restrictions and other related impacts of Covid-19 are limited."

For the Paralympic Games, too, all ranking points earned at tournaments completed during the original qualification period will be maintained under the Race to Tokyo Paralympic Ranking list.

Only one tournament within the original paralympic qualification period -- the Spanish Para Badminton International 2020 -- was cancelled due to Covid-19. It will now be included in the adjusted qualification system within a period from 1 January to 28 March 2021.