New Delhi: Young star Lakshya Sen said India, the Thomas Cup champions, are favourites to win the Asian Games men's team gold in badminton, and he is also nourishing the dream of meeting compatriot and Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra during the quadrennial event.
Sen, a 2021 world championships bronze medallist, was one of the architects of India's epic Thomas Cup victory in May last year. He said India will be a top contender for the gold at Asian Games.
"Definitely, the team is looking really good.
It is the same team that won the Thomas Cup, so we are going as world champions. I think the players who are playing against us know that it is not easy (to defeat India), as we can beat any team in the world," Sen told PTI.
Sen underlined the need for a collective effort at the Asian Games.
"I don't think we lack confidence. We have this camaraderie, and we know how to go about it. All the teams are tough and we have to give our best.
"We will need a good, collective effort to do well there. The whole team is positive and we are hoping for a good result," Sen said.
The 22-year-old from Almora, who won a silver at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games and a gold at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, will be playing only the team championships at the 19th edition of the showpiece.
"It will be my first experience at the Asian Games. It is a similar kind of atmosphere, like the Commonwealth Games and Youth Olympics.
"So I am looking forward to the event and also I will be getting a chance to meet other Indian and foreign athletes, and learn about their sports and life," said Sen.
"In the Commonwealth Games last year, we were there with the TT contingent, as only we played from the first to last day of the tournament. Their matches were in next hall. So, I watched a lot of TT matches. I didn't have time to see other events," he said.
Sen, who is currently ranked world no. 11, missed the individual event at the Asian Games after he lost to Kidambi Srikanth in the selection trials in May this year.
Sen hoped that it will give him some to meet Chopra, who will be competing in the javelin throw, in person.
"I'm only playing team event. So, I look forward to meeting Neeraj Chopra. If I get some time, I would love to go and watch him perform and support him.
"I have spoken to him before but never met him in person. So, I am really looking forward to that," he said.
The Indian players, who didn't get time to have a long training session due to busy international schedule, are currently honing their skills in a week-long camp in Hyderabad.
"This time there were some big events like China super 1000 and World Championships, which were kind of unavoidable.
"But we have been competing very recently and it is the same for everyone. The match preparation is there and it is all about playing well on the day.
"It is like a big pressure tournament, a lot of people in India give importance to Asian Games. So, I am going (to the Asian Games) with my full intention and expecting good results," he said.
Badminton events will start with the team competition on September 28.