After PV Sindhu’s impressive run at the Tokyo Olympics, where she medaled for the second successive Games, India’s top badminton players would have eyed a title or two when the World Tour resumed with the Denmark Open last month.
In the four World Tour events since then – French Open, HYLO Open and Indonesia Masters being the others – India’s badminton contingent has not won a single title and have not even made a final. Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen have all made one or more semis but the best win by an Indian so far has come from HS Prannoy, who stunned Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen at the Indonesia Masters last week.
With the Indonesia Open being the last tournament before the World Tour Finals and the World Championships next month, here’s a look at the key storylines:
Can Sindhu end her title drought in a depleted field?
Sindhu is the reigning World Champion and won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year. However, her sole title at the World Tour Level came almost three years ago at the World Tour Finals in 2018.
With four of the five best players in the world – Tai Tzu Ying, Chen Yufei, Nozomi Okuhara and Carolina Marin – skipping these tournaments with a combination of injury (Okuhara and Marin) and self-preservation (Tai and Chen), Sindhu would have fancied her chances of winning at least one of the three tournaments she took part in.
While she has been fairly consistent – she has made two semis and lost in the quarters of the Denmark Open – as the most decorated player in the draw, she ought to be eyeing a better return in the Indonesia Open. The three players she has lost to in those tournaments – Akane Yamaguchi, Sayaka Takahashi and An Se Young – are all in the other half of the draw here. Moreover, she will have happy memories from her last appearance at the tournament, where she went all the way to the final before losing to Yamaguchi.
Sindhu’s first real challenge might come in the form of world no. 11 Michelle Li in the quarterfinals but Sindhu will start as the favourite there, since she has won each of her past four matches against the Canadian. Sindhu might then run into her toughest challenge in the tournament, in the form of Ratchanok Intanon.
Sindhu has made the semis in four of the last five tournaments she has taken part in but lost all of them. Intanon won both their previous matches this year in straight games but that was in January. Intanon has struggled with form and injury over the past month, failing to progress beyond the quarterfinals in any of the last four tournaments she has taken part in. It would be interesting to see how the former world champion’s body holds up if she does go as far as the last four.
Sindhu, though, is in better form and fitness at the moment and if she gets past Intanon, she will have a chance to most likely avenge her losses against either Yamaguchi or An in the final.
Is Kidambi Srikanth actually on the verge of a turnaround?
After climbing to the heights of world no. 1 in 2018, Srikanth’s form has veered from the sublime to the ridiculous as a byproduct of injuries and a lack of confidence. For a player who has been a fixture in the top 10 of the world rankings and India’s best men’s singles player for the majority of the last decade, the failure to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics must have hurt.
However, he’s shown signs of improvement since returning to action at the Sudirman Cup in September. He first showed signs of a resurgence in the first round of the French Open, where he almost beat world no. 1 Kento Momota. That match seemed to have buoyed him with some much-needed confidence as he then made the semis at the HYLO Open and the Indonesia Masters.
He faces a very tricky opener here in the form of compatriot HS Prannoy but he has had the upper hand over the big-hitting Prannoy recently, having defeated him in a lopsided match in the quarterfinals of the Indonesia Masters last week.
The real test of his progress, though, might come in the second round, where he’s likely to run into Olympic champion Axelsen. The last time Srikanth defeated a top five opponent in a completed match was the Denmark Open in 2017, when he defeated Axelsen in the quarterfinals. He has since suffered 22 successive losses against top five players in completed matches. Since that quarterfinal in 2017, Axelsen has won each of his four matches against Srikanth without dropping a game.
If Srikanth can turn that record around, he will definitely fancy his chances at the tournament this week
Improve your marathon time with proper pre-hydration
Andy Blow, sweat expert and founder of leading sports fuelling and hydration company Precision Fuel and Hydration, discusses how pre hydration can help improve your marathon time.
Dehydration can seriously impact an athlete’s performance, and enjoyment of a marathon.
Yet according to the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 31% of amateur athletes arrive at training sessions or events dehydrated.
For those looking to shave minutes off their race time – simply starting properly hydrated could be the answer.
We caught up with Andy Blow, CEO of Precision Fuel and Hydration, to find out how pre hydration can have such a dramatic effect on your marathon, and how runners can start a race in the best possible condition.
The benefits of pre-hydrating
Optimising your hydration status before a marathon, or ‘preloading’, can increase your blood volume and significantly improve your performance.
According to Sport Nutrition by Jeukendrup and Gleeson, dehydration of just 8% of each individual’s total-body water could half their exercise endurance, based on a 121 minute session.
Research has proven that taking onboard a high concentration of electrolytes, the salts and minerals that help your body function, promotes fluid retention which in turn increases the blood volume in your body.
This increased blood volume supports cardiovascular function helping transport oxygen and fuel to your muscles, and your body’s ability to dissipate heat produced by your working muscles.
This can reduce fatigue and improve endurance performance – helping you run your best marathon possible.
On the other hand, exercising in a dehydrated state can reduce blood volume, limit cardiovascular performance and limit the body’s ability to cool itself through sweat – all limiting the body’s ability to perform.
Pre-hydration is more than drinking water
Hydration is much more than just the amount of water we drink.
Your body is constantly aiming to maintain a balance between water and electrolytes.
It’s therefore important to take on correct levels of both to properly hydrate.
Drinking just water can upset that balance, diluting the body’s concentration of salt. Always wanting to maintain equilibrium, the body’s solution to this is to expel the excess water through urine. It’s basically going make you pee!
Unfortunately, this will also take with it some of the electrolytes in your system, further diluting your blood sodium levels and impacting your performance (and wellbeing in extreme cases).
However, consuming a strong electrolyte solution in the build up to a marathon will boost your salt levels, encouraging your body to retain the water you drink, helping you to start the race fully hydrated.
How to hydrate before a marathon
The timings of a race day, particularly an event as large as the London Marathon, can be vastly different to an athlete’s usual routine.
That’s why planning your hydration strategy is key.
Athletes preparing for a marathon should drink a strong electrolyte drink the night before the race to encourage your body to retain fluid, which will boost blood volume.
Aim for drinks containing >1,000mg of sodium per litre.
The morning of the race, 90 minutes before the start is recommended, athletes should drink another bottle of strong electrolyte drink to top-up blood plasma volume.
It is important to finish this drink 45 minutes before you set off to give the body time to process it.
While this plan will enable the average marathon participant to arrive at the start line hydrated, every person’s sweat concentration and sweat rate will be different, so athletes looking to maximise their potential should know their numbers, do a sweat test and form a more personalised hydration plan.
Dangers of over drinking
As much as beginning a marathon dehydrated can negatively impact your performance, there is also a danger that athletes can drink too much water in anticipation of a race – leading to a new set of problems.
Nervous drinking before a race is common for newcomers to marathon running, and those who haven’t planned their hydration.
Drinking too much water without taking on electrolytes can lead to hyponatremia.
Hyponatremia can be summarised as low blood sodium levels. This can be caused by inadequately replacing the sodium lost when sweating, compounded by drinking plain water or weak sports drinks mixed that further dilute sodium on the body.
Sodium is vital for several bodily functions like blood pressure and working nerves and muscles.
Hyponatremia can cause nausea or vomiting, fatigue, loss of energy, muscle weakness and cramps; all things you want to avoid when running a marathon.
According to National Kidney Foundation, when sodium levels are particularly low, more serious health implications can occur, even resulting in death.
Don’t waste your training
It’s probable that if you’re signed up to a spring marathon, you’ve done months of hard training.
By making sure you start the race properly hydrated, you not only reduce unnecessary discomfort, fatigue and muscle weakness, but will allow your body to realise its full potential come race day.
Training is also an ideal opportunity to test out your hydration strategy. Try running through your pre-race hydration and timings with the confidence that you are in the best possible shape.
Finding time for training in the busiest of schedules
Whether you’re a serious runner or casual athlete, fitting your training sessions into a busy schedule can be tough. Once you factor in rigid work hours, family duties, or other commitments, it can feel like there are few available opportunities to get your trainers on and hit the roads. Andy Blow, former elite triathlete, leading sports scientist, and CEO and founder of sport nutrition multinational Precision Fuel & Hydration (PF&H), shares his tips for training with a busy schedule.
Make a plan that works for you
Planning ahead is the key to making the most of every hour in the day.
Consolidate all your commitments onto one central calendar. Whether it’s work meetings, school runs, or domestic chores, you’ll be able to get a clearer idea of your schedule, and what is going to be a realistic amount of training for you to achieve.
Instead of picking a high intensity programme, then trying to cram it into your week, start with non-negotiable commitments and build up your plan around these.
It’s a more sustainable way to train, which means you’re more likely to stick to the plan and hit your long-term goals.
Use your time wisely
Waking up an hour or two earlier means you can get some training in before your day has even begun.
Not only does this add extra hours into your schedule, but they’re hours which are unlikely to be filled with other commitments. How often do you plan an evening run, only for something more pressing to be added to your diary halfway through the day?
Hit the trails early and clock up those morning miles before the world wakes up.
If you’re responsible for taking children or other family members to clubs and appointments, use this time to your advantage. Keep a pair of running shoes in the car and plan a route to complete while you wait.
If your office building has a shower available, turn your commute into a training opportunity by running part or the whole of your journey.
Training smarter also means you’ll get the most out of your time. Instead of running for the sake of running, incorporate sessions that are specific to your end goal, whether this means regular hill sessions, speed intervals or longer, slow runs.
Fuel, hydrate, and recover
What you do between sessions can be as important as the training itself; you’ll never get the best out of a run if you’re lacking energy or have improperly recovered and hydrated. When you’re short on time, every run must count.
When people talk about hydration, it’s often about what and how much you should drink during exercise. But your performance is also hugely influenced by how hydrated you are when you start exercising in the first place.
There’s strong evidence to show that taking in additional sodium with fluids before you start sweating is effective in promoting increased acute fluid retention and improving endurance performance, especially in the warmer weather.
There’s more to fuelling than just calorie intake, and there’s a few common pitfalls which can catch you out.
Not taking enough carbohydrate to adequately support your rate of energy expenditure is the number one fuelling mistake, but it’s possible to take on too much carb as well – primarily because of the gastrointestinal (GI) distress a sugar overdose can cause.
Fuelling using pre-packaged sports nutrition is a no-brainer for short to moderate training sessions or endurance events, where taking in palatable, simple carbohydrates is the key to success. They’re convenient and can simplify getting your carb intake just right.
Despite already recommending getting up that bit earlier sleep is also worthy of mention and is an extremely powerful tool for recovery – something many of us are guilty of neglecting. If you’re an athlete, getting enough sleep should be as big a part of your training program as your exercise sessions.
Set a clear goal
Even if you’re a casual runner, take on the challenge of a race or event you can train for. Having a goal will keep you motivated, especially if it has a fixed date to work towards.
True performance comes from long term consistency, not weeks of hard training, so a long-term goal is a great way to stay accountable over a sustained period.
With busy schedules and multiple commitments, life can very easily get in the way of our goals. But I truly believe that there’s time for training in even the busiest schedule if you train smart, set priorities, and plan your time carefully.
University students hold the keys to ‘level up’ the esports industry
Written by Tao Martinez, Head of University Esports Development at GGTech
For many students, getting in from a class or lecture means jumping onto CS:GO or League of Legends with their friends to pass the time and have a laugh for a few hours.
Climbing the ranks may spark conversation about “going professional” one day but forging a career in esports has never been more accessible for students, with the industry growing by the day.
The total revenue of the esports industry in 2021 was estimated by Newzoo to be $833.6 million, and this is enhanced by a rising number of jobs, university courses and opportunities, making it one of the fastest growing and desirable sectors to lead a career in.
The most obvious route into esports is through being the best at a given game, with teams willing to sign players up on a contract to represent them at tournaments and online leagues. And whilst this is desirable, there are actually a whole host of other careers within the industry.
With Covid fears beginning to fade, in-person gaming events are returning with competitions such as the Amazon UNIVERSITY Esports Masters, hosted by GGTech in collaboration with NUEL, bringing together the best university talent across Europe to face off.
Beyond the players, these events require event organisers, planners and managers, advertising, sponsorship, social media promotion, casting, filming, tech support, and that’s before even getting to the participants which involves players, coaches, and team organisations.
There are so many aspects to a successful esports competition which in turn creates a wealth of jobs and opportunities – which are growing all the time. And these opportunities are also available through online esports leagues as well.
We are in an era where traditional television is being taken over by Netflix, YouTube and Twitch, creating new mediums for viewers to engage with esports, which is reflected by a growing viewer base.
Research from VentureBeat estimated that in 2021 there were 234 million esports enthusiasts, up from 197 and 200.8 million respectively in 2019, highlighting a stark growth. What’s more is that by 2024 there are expected to be 285.8 million enthusiasts and 291.6 million occasional viewers. Esports is a rapidly growing industry that people want to be involved with, and it’ll only get bigger in the coming years.
This is supported by an increase in job awareness through sites like Hitmarker, a dedicated jobs site for advertising esports opportunities.
The esports ecosystem supports universities through the development of teaching, facilities and opportunities in the industry which helps to focus on student’s interests whilst developing their core skills in preparation for a career in the industry.
For example, Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies, as part of Nottingham Trent University, offer a BSc in Esports Production which teaches students about the global esports industry, the principles of esports, production and technology, as well as broadcasting and management. This will be delivered in Confetti X, a £5 million dedicated esports complex due to open ahead of the upcoming academic year.
Universities such as Sheffield Hallam offer courses in esports management, whilst Chichester has its own esports degree. This is supplemented by universities such as Warwick who have large student esports communities who come together for competitions and tournaments.
The importance of good training in developing the esports industry is being increasingly recognised by universities who are creating new courses each year as a result. Courses involving business, management, events, marketing, journalism and design all offer unique skills which match up with a plethora of new jobs emerging in the esports scene, and with the industry growing at the rate it is, the number of these jobs will only rise.
Moving forwards, the onus is not only on the esports industry supplying opportunities for university students, but also on the university ecosystem to provide the highest-quality education and training in order to fuel the integration of new talent into the dynamic esports workforce.
In order to assist students who are pursuing a career in esports, GGTech works with university students to run and produce the Amazon UNIVERSITY Esports Masters competitions, giving them vital first-hand experience at casting, broadcasting and event management.
Part of the fabric for the future development and growth of the esports industry is putting faith in the talent of university students, being willing to innovate courses, equipment and opportunities, and supporting students every step of the way to help turn their hobby into their future employment.
That’s why university campuses are the best testing space for evolving equipment, products and services whilst allowing students to gain valuable experience, especially through internships and competition management.
Opening people’s eyes to the vast array of opportunities and careers that the esports sector has to offer will fuel the next generation to become the core of the industry during its rapid growth.
Now is the time for a career in esports
In the esports industry revenues are growing, viewership is growing, the number of participants is growing, and this is creating more and more opportunities all the time.
There is no better time to pursue a career in esports, and education is at the forefront of attracting prospective students into the industry. As the sector grows, we will see an increasing number of universities offering esports related courses and follow in the footsteps of Confetti in building dedicated facilities for students to gain the best first-hand experience for running tournaments.
Students should be encouraged to take the plunge, and universities and esports professionals must provide the best assistance possible to welcome in the new generation to help the entire esports industry grow.