The duo’s breakthrough season began with the two winning the Brazil International Challenge in May. The high point arrived when they became the first Indian pair to win a BWF Super Series 500 event (Thailand Open) in August. They followed that up by making the final of the French Open Super 750 tournament. Just when the pair’s consistent run of form gave rise to expectations of a possible berth in the Olympics and even a podium finish, a roadblock in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Satwik and Chirag managed to return to their homes just days before the nationwide lockdown was enforced.
Satwik trains at his residence in Amalapuram (Andhra Pradesh), while Chirag is confined to his home in Mumbai. “It’s been tough since we aren’t used to being away from the court and not have full-fledged training sessions for this long. It took me some time to get used to this schedule where I am doing yoga, meditation and other fitness drills and not playing badminton,” Chirag told TOI.
While Chirag has taken to painting to beat the lockdown blues, Satwik prefers spending time playing PUBG on his mobile. “I am happy being at home and eating healthy food. If I am not training, PUBG is something that I play in order to pass my time,” Satwik said. The two make sure to speak to each other regularly just to stay motivated. “I often call Chirag the ‘Mini-Google’ as he is very knowledgeable. We have our online sessions in the morning, and once that concludes we discuss our schedule with each other. Speaking to him helps me relax. It also helps me stay abreast with the latest happenings around the world,” said Satwik.
Ranked world No. 10, the pair can’t wait to be back on court in the coming weeks. “While our fitness levels are up to the mark, nothing can beat the feeling of playing hours and hours on court. However, it will be important for us to take it easy for the first week or so and slowly hit peak levels of practice. The lockdown has certainly meant that we are starting from scratch and we will be keen to work on our defence,” said Satwik.
The pair, part of GoSports long-term athlete development programme, are on the cusp of sealing an Olympic berth but they aren’t thinking too far ahead. “At this point, all we want is to begin practising. We also hope to get a new coach since our previous coach Flandy Limpele stepped down in March. One thing that has always helped me and Satwik in this journey has been our hunger to continue giving our best and not worry about our results,” said Chirag.