Confident Niluka ready to take on Indian might


Reemus Fernando reporting from London

Niluka Karunaratne is confident that he could create another upset when he meets Indian number one Parupalli Kashyap in the pre-quarterfinal of men’s singles badminton championship of the 2012 London Olympics, in what is going to be a battle between neighbours, here at Wembley Arena today.

"It is a meeting with another high-ranked player. Once again, the pressure will be on him to perform. I am confident. What I have to do is not to take pressure on me," Niluka told ‘The Island’ yesterday.

Indian No.1 is ranked 21st in the men’s singles badminton world rankings while the Sri Lankan champion, who stunned world No.8 Kenichi Tago in the first round to secure a historic pre-quarterfinal berth, is ranked 48th in the world.

Karunaratne has been the only Sri Lankan to have enjoyed success so far at this edition of Olympics with two others having already finished their competitions. Niluka’s historic victory at Wembley Arena won him many admirers on Monday as British fans cheered the triumph of the underdog over the Japanese player.

However, with many Indian supporters expected at today’s pre-quarterfinal, it is going to be a different atmosphere here.

"I am ready for that. What I will have to do is to keep looking at the opponent’s weak points and attack him," said Niluka.

Indian No.1 Kashyap beat Vietnam player Tien Minh in the first round match yesterday to secure entry into pre-quarterfinals. He beat the Vietnamese 21-9, 21-14.

Although it is slated to be a close battle, Niluka’s coach had predicted that Niluka will have the advantage.

"Niluka will be the favourite. After watching the match between the Indian and the Vietnamese, his coach told me that Niluka will have the advantage. Niluka is a strong player," said Parakrama Basnayake, the President of the Sri Lanka Badminton Federation.

On Monday Niluka thanked the NOC, the Sports Minister, his parents and his sponsors for the support extended to him during the last year where he competed at many international ranking tournaments while in search of a place in the London Olympics. The Sports Ministry alone had spent over ten million for his foreign tours.

He has proved that the money spent on his tours has not been wasted by securing the highest place a Sri Lankan has ever achieved in the history of badminton in Sri Lanka.

The winner of today’s match will be just one game away from an Olympics medal.

The official pre-quarterfinal draw was not available at the time of filing this story but the Sri Lankan officials confirmed that Niluka’s opponent will be the Indian and the match will be played today.

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