'Miracle Madman': How Shirish Nadkarni is defying odds to enter the badminton court once again

Modified 04 Dec 2015
Aged 66 now, Shirish is making a comeback to competitive badminton

Injuries have gone onto plague careers of various sportsman across the globe. Be it the basketball side Houston Rocket’s star Yao Ming who could never quite recover from various operations in his left foot or former Tottenham Hotspur captain Ledley King who was seen as one of the most promising England defenders in the new generation. Recurring injuries have encapsulated many from establishing themselves in the field of sport and thus limiting the audience’s experience of appreciating various talents in this vast field.

While many have been unfortunate to have not recuperated, there are some stories that make us rejoice the spirit of an athlete, and how despite all the hardships and difficulties the road ahead is certainly worth looking forward to.

“I’ve already been away from the game for eight months now. Six months is the recovery period for a knee replacement; I think I'll be back on the court two days before my birthday,” a confident Shirish Nadkarni told the mid-day. The former sports journalist is set to get back on his feet at the age of 66 and enter the badminton court once again.

It is widely said that age is just a number and should never be a deterring factor, but 21 surgies could well lead to a pause for any athlete. Not for Shirish though, who is looking to bounce back and prepare for the 2017 World Championships.

Shirish who won three gold and two silver medals in the World Masters games in Melbourne has defied all odds and even at a time when the doctors gave up on his playing career after his 2005 heart attack, a month after landing the World Championship, Nadkarni did not even consider stopping.

“Doctors would tell me that it would be near impossible for me to keep playing badminton. I kept reassuring them that not only would I continue to play, but I would take part in competitive badminton and win,” a buoyant Shirish said.

Nicknamed the ‘Miracle Madman’ for his incredible zeal and passion towards the game, Nadkarni was recognised by the Guiness book of World Records as the only world champion with a replaced knee to continue playing a competitive sport involving a lot of movement on court.

Shirish’s honours are there for all to see. The veteran represented India at the all England veterans in 1997, 1998 and 2001, he won one gold and two silver medals in the World Masters game in 2005 and also represented India at the World Senior Championships in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013.

The experienced badminton player saw injuries affect him for the first time back in 1971, when he twisted his left knee and now 44 years later and after 21 year career threatening surgeries, Shirish is hardly thinking of calling it a day.

“Looking forward to getting on my feet by April 20. Then I will think about practice. I will miss the veterans’ nationals to be held in Chennai in January 2016. The next major event I am looking forward to is the World Championship in Kochi in 2017,” 

“I missed the championship which just concluded in Sweden. But I am not going to miss the next one. This time, the implant is even lighter and has more support for the knee due to deeper anchoring in the femur (thigh bone). I think we have a good chance of winning in the 65+ category,” Shirish added.

The story of Shirish Nadkarni is one that all corners of the society can relate to and look upto. The badminton player despite being affected in almost all parts of the body has not thought of giving up, and now we can only wish the veteran can get back to his feet and make it onto the court once again.

Published 28 Oct 2015
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