Mumbai: A very big challenge awaits the Indian shuttlers ahead of next year's Rio Olympic Games in their quest to improve their world rankings before the cut-off date of May, 2016, according to chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand Friday.
"This may not be the Olympic year. But for the country to gain automatic qualification for the Rio Games it's an important year as the players need to be in the top 16 in singles ranking by May, 2016," said Gopichand at a promotional event here.
As per the rules of Badminton World Federation, two slots are allotted to the country if players finish in the top 16 by the cut-off date.
Gopi, who is part of the Go Sports Foundation, which has got into a sports initiative called "Behind The Finish Line" with Procam International, said players have to figure in specific tournaments like Super Series Premier and Super Series to improve their ranking.
Asked about the progress made by K Srikanth, who made the world take notice of him by beating Chinese great Lin Dan in the Chinese Open last season and is currently ranked 4th in the world, Gopi said a huge challenge awaits him now.
"He has to keep improving his strength and speed and also his strategy. It's a challenge for him," said Gopi.
Gopi played the diplomatic card when queried why P V Sindhu, ranked world no. 11 among women, has been unable to get the better of her senior rival and London Olympic Games bronze medal winner Saina Nehwal, who is now training under Vimal Kumar at Bengaluru after leaving her home town Hyderabad and his academy.
"I want both Sindhu and Saina challenging the rest of the world together," said Gopi.