New Delhi: When former men’s badminton world number one Srikanth Kidambi broke the tiebreak deadlock in the second set of his encounter with Indonesia’s Leonardus Jonatan Christie in Bangkok Sunday, helping the Indian team clinch its first-ever victory in the prestigious Thomas Cup tournament, it was a glorious moment for Indian badminton.
Born in Andhra Pradesh’s Ravulapalem, Kidambi has been coached by badminton legend Pullela Gopichand. His meteoric rise over the past few years — he was ranked number one in men’s badminton in 2018 — marks yet another crowning moment for India’s growing heft in the sport.
ThePrint takes a look back at some of India’s milestones in the badminton court.
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Pioneer Prakash Padukone
While the likes of Dinesh Khanna and Nandu Katekar consistently won the Indian National Badminton Championships in the 1960s, most of India’s earliest shuttlecock victories outside Asia took place in the Commonwealth Games and European tournaments in the late 1970s & early 1980s, with Karnataka’s Prakash Padukone spearheading the country’s success.
Padukone’s aggressive style made him India’s best badminton player of his times. He won gold medals at the 1978 Commonwealth Games and several open tournaments across Europe in 1980. His biggest win came in 1980 at the All England Open, badminton’s oldest tournament.
By the time Padukone retired in the early 1990s, he had put Indian badminton firmly on the world map, with dozens of finals appearances and eight title wins.
Syed Modi’s short-lived time at the top
Born in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, on 31 December 1962, Syed Modi was still a teenager when he followed up Padukone’s Commonwealth gold with one of his own at 1982’s Brisbane Commonwealth Games, as well as podium finishes in the 1982 and 1986 Asian Games.
His achievements, and life, were brutally cut short, however. Modi was shot dead outside Lucknow’s K.D. Singh Babu stadium in July 1988.
Pullela Gopichand — player and coach
Following Padukone’s retirement and Modi’s death, men’s badminton in India suffered a lull before Pullela Gopichand’s bronze (individual) and silver (team) medals in the 1998 Commonwealth Games. He also became the second Indian after Padukone to win the All England Open in 2001.
However, Gopichand’s contribution to the game continued even after his retirement as a player, with the launch of his Hyderabad-based badminton academy in 2008. He has also been India’s national badminton coach.
Over the past 14 years, the Gopichand Badminton Academy has nurtured many talents — from Kidambi and K.S. Prannoy (both part of India’s Thomas Cup winning team), to women’s champions Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu.
Nehwal to Kidambi, via Sindhu — the modern greats
Nehwal’s three Commonwealth golds, besides the bronze win in the 2012 London Olympics, have been well documented, but she has since been surpassed by Sindhu’s consecutive podium finishes — a silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics and a bronze in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
She was also part of the Indian team that won third place at the Uber Cup (the women’s counterpart to the Thomas Cup) in 2014 and 2016. She clinched a historic gold medal in the 2019 World Badminton Championships.
India also achieved successes in various badminton categories at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, with two gold medals, a silver and a bronze.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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