The rise and rise of Indian Badminton

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By ASHOK PUNATAR Mob: 9820746494 Email: ashokpunatar@yahoo.com

What a stellar week it has been for 22-year old shuttler Sameer Verma, as he stunned World No. 3 Jan Jorgensen in a taut semi-final en route to the final of his first ever Superseries event. The runner-up finish is his best ever performance, more so considering that the talented Indian came unseeded into the tournament.

The boy from Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, finally did his abundant talent justice and went down fighting to his local opponent Ng Ka Long Angus 14-21, 21-10, 11-21. He thus capped off a fantastic weekend for Indian badminton, which saw Olympic silver medallist P.V. Sindhu also reach the final of the same event.

Ranked no. 43 in the world currently, Sameer is all set to gain meaningful points and reach his career-high ranking on account of this performance. He was selected for support by the GoSports Foundation in 2012 and currently is among the 19 athletes receiving support under their Rahul Dravid Athlete Mentorship Programme. The foundation has supported him with his equipment and gear, tournament expenses, medical expenses, a camera to analyse his play, as well as his nutritional requirements.

The current National Champion has had a largely indifferent year thus far after a promising finish to 2015. Battling back from injury last year, he took back-to-back titles at the Bahrain International Series and Bahrain International Challenge, capped it off with Bangladesh Open and TATA Open titles.

As a result of this, he rose to his career-high world ranking of 35 in March 2016. The best performance in 2016 before this for the Gopichand Academy product, who is coming back from a shoulder injury, was his semi-final finish at the Bitburger Open in Germany.

Sameer took to badminton early on, following in his elder brother Sourabh’s footsteps, and has been rated high on potential by his coach, Pullela Gopichand. He is currently one of six Indian male shuttlers to be ranked within the World Top 50, for the first time in history, in what is shaping up as the golden era of Indian badminton.

Back home in Hyderabad, the final of the India International Series saw several GoSports Foundation athletes emerging victorious. Young Rituparna Das emerged triumphant to take the Women’s Singles win, outlasting fellow GoSports athlete Ruthvika Shivani 11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 14-12. The recently crowned Polish Open champion thus continued a string of impressive performances after suffering a knee injury which required extensive rehabilitation for around 7 months back in 2015.

The 20 year old has shown remarkable character to work her way back to form and is among the top candidates being groomed for the Commonwealth and Asian Games in 2018.

In the Men’s Doubles event, GoSports athletes Chirag Shetty and Satwik Sai Raj also outlasted their Malaysian opponents 8-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 11-5 in a 5-game marathon. Satwik also took the Mixed Doubles title with his partner Maneesha K. The men’s doubles pair are also returning to competition after an injury layoff for Chirag.

The three are among 10 emerging badminton talents supported by the GoSports Foundation under the Badminton Scholarships Programme. Rituparna has received support towards her international tournament expenses, as well as her medical requirements. Chirag and Satwik have received support towards their training fees and medical expenses.

What a privilege to watch these young talents rise to the fore!

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