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A look at the badminton Limca records over the years

FEATURED COLUMNIST
7.37K   //    24 Jan 2015, 08:25 IST
Did you know,  Saina Nehwal is India’s first and only Junior World Champion?

When one sets a new record or breaks an existing record it is a moment that is forever immortalized, captured and stored away for years to come. For no matter what happens from then on, that moment will linger on, standing the test of time and rewarding its holder with a place in the history books – a place that future generations will pore over and relive with the passing of time.

The Limca Book of Records is one such dossier that provides a repository of some of the most significant records in Indian sport. Its 2015 edition has just been launched at this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival.

Indian badminton on the rise

Indian badminton made an unprecedented leap in 2014 thanks to some breakthrough and landmark performances from the country’s male and female shuttlers. It was an explosion of success for a sporting movement that had been steadily growing in the country over the last decade.

Ploughing through some of game’s high points in the Limca Book of Records reinforces the kind of growth that India has seen in the sport recently.

For example, take P.V. Sindhu’s historic run at the 2013 BWF World Championships in Guangzhou, China. The 18-year-old felled a number of highly-ranked Chinese players on the way to a semi-final showing before losing to the eventual champion, Ratchanok Inthanon of Thailand. That bronze medal was the first ever medal of any kind for India at the World Championships.

Sindhu would go on to put in a repeat performance a year later in 2014, once again bowing out to the eventual champion (Carolina Marin of Spain) in the semis.

Saina Nehwal’s heroics over the years

One of the first names that pops up in your mind when you think of badminton in India is Saina Nehwal. While Sindhu is very much the new kid on the block, Nehwal has been the flag-bearer for badminton for the better part of a decade.

Though just 24, Nehwal is a veteran compared to Sindhu and has a litany of Limca records to her name since 2008. She became India’s first ever Junior World Champion (only one so far) when she won the title in that year in Pune, beating Japan’s Sayata Sako.

That junior title showed glimpses of what she could do, and she followed it up by becoming India’s first Grand Prix Gold winner when she won the Chinese Taipei Grand Prix later that year.

Moving up the levels and accumulating more victories, Nehwal also became the first Indian to win a Super Series event by clinching the Indonesia Open in June 2009. She has won eight Super Series titles since then including two last year in Australia and China, that helped her return to the Top 5 in the BWF singles rankings.

The five years of sustained excellence since her breakthrough in 2008 culminated at the 2012 London Olympics where she picked up India’s first medal in badminton at the Olympics by finishing third in the women’s singles.

Men’s badminton producing champions too

What about the men, you may ask? They may have been a little late in arriving on the scene, but they had their fair share of the bounty last year. 21-year-old Kidambi Srikanth became the first Indian to win a Super Series men’s title when he captured the China Open, beating the legendary Lin Dan in front of his home fans in the final.

Parupalli Kashyap, for a long time India’s number one male shuttler, brought home the gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year in the men’s singles, making him the third Indian man to do so after Prakash Padukone (1978) and Syed Modi (1982).

Credit to the man to changed Indian badminton for good: Pullela Gopichand

What binds all these recent achievers together is their ties to former player Pullela Gopichand. Most of the top players today are products of the Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad. Gopichand’s defining moment came in 2001 when he won the prestigious All England Championships. However, he wasn’t the first – we go back to Prakash Padukone who was the first here as well, winning in 1980.

Reliving those moments takes us on a wondrous journey – from Padukone and Gopichand to Srikanth and Sindhu. The sport has definitely seen more crests than troughs in recent times, and if this reading of the Limca Book of Records is anything to go by, there’s room for many more to be created in the upcoming years.

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