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Thailand out of badminton showpiece as Ratchanok leads coronavirus withdrawals

Ratchanok Intanon's coach said her main focus was the Tokyo Olympics
Ratchanok Intanon's coach said her main focus was the Tokyo Olympics FABRICE COFFRINI AFP
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Bangkok (AFP)

Thailand have withdrawn from badminton's Thomas and Uber Cups after former world champion Ratchanok Intanon and other players pulled out over coronavirus fears, an official and her coach said.

Taiwan -- the team of women's world number one Tai Tzu-ying -- and Australia are also skipping the tournaments, which will be played in a bio-secure 'bubble' in Denmark in October, the Badminton World Federation said.

The twice-postponed Thomas and Uber Cups, the men's and women's world team championships, will be the first international tournaments since the pandemic brought badminton to a halt in March.

Thailand had blamed its withdrawal on "special circumstances related to Covid-19 in addition to injuries to key players", the BWF said in a statement.

Badminton Association of Thailand president Patama Leeswadtrakul said separately that the decision was triggered by the withdrawal of several players.

"Despite Denmark's strict measures and procedures applied to players... it's understandable for some of the full-team players to withdraw because they are concerned about the pandemic," she said.

Ratchanok's coach Patpapol Ngensrisuk told AFP that the world number five was worried about catching coronavirus ahead of next year's postponed Tokyo Olympics.

"Ratchanok is very concerned about COVID-19 because she has already qualified for the Olympics. So if she contracts the virus, then she is worried about her future (at the Games)," Patpapol said.

"Her main goal right now is the Olympics."

However, India's PV Sindhu, one of the world's highest earning female athletes, has reversed her decision to skip the Uber Cup.

Sindhu had previously pulled out citing a family function, but she has now changed her plans following a request from India's badminton association.

Two other tournaments will be held in Denmark after the Thomas and Uber Cups on October 3-11, followed by three in consecutive weeks from November 10 in Asia, at locations that are yet to be announced.

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