Lakshya Sen becomes the second Indian shuttler to win Youth Olympic silver medal
Rising shuttler Lakshya Sen on Friday became the second Indian shuttler to win a silver medal from the Youth Olympics as he went down to fifth seed Li Shifeng 15-21, 19-21 at Buenos Aires, Argentina. The 17-year-old thus emulated World No. 15 HS Prannoy's feat. The latter had bagged the silver at the Singapore Youth Olympic Games in 2010.
This is yet another feather in the cap of the young Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy product, who won the Asian Junior Championships in July.
Sen was the fourth seed in the men's singles event at this tournament and was the favourite going into the final, having already had a couple of wins over the Chinese before.
However, Sen did not find the right gears and looked drained after playing a marathon semi-final a day earlier. He had needed 1 hour 15 minutes and had to overcome a lot of momentum shifts to get a 14-21, 21-15, 24-22 win over the second seed Kodai Naraoka in that match.
That clearly took a toll on him as he looked slow and weary since the start of the final. Li, on the other hand, looked fresher and more spirited of the two. He also brought the aggression on the court that helped him to build a big lead and steadily grow in confidence as the match progressed.
The Chinese raced ahead to 8-1 and then built a nine-point advantage with a lead of 11-2 going into the mid-game interval. Sen tried to speed up the game a bit after the break and made efforts to outfox his opponent with delicate touches at the net. It worked to some extent and even seemed like it would bring back Sen into contention.
The Indian won seven points in a row and closed the gap between them to just three points at 13-16 through that fightback. However, errors started creeping into his game again and Li made the most of his opportunities after that to pocket the first game.
Sen looked refreshed at the start of the second game and brought a more attacking approach. The joy, however, was short-lived as he soon started looking physically spent and could not manage to keep up with Li in long rallies. Li went up to 5-3 and then stretched it further to 11-7 at the interval.
Sen found some fighting spirit to close the gap between them again at 14-16 only to give up his chances soon after. Li got as many as five match points but there was still some more drama in store as Sen saved four match points.
With the former junior World No. 1 finally faltering at the net on the fifth match point, Li completed the win and collapsed on the court to celebrate his gold medal win.