During the course of its long history, Indian badminton has seen many a memorable moment. From Prakash Padukone winning the All England Championships to Saina Nehwal winnig the bronze at the London Olympics, the game hasn’t been short of historic feats in a country that has made considerable progress in the sport over the years.
Here’s a look at the 5 best achievements by Indian shuttlers over the years:
5. Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa – Bronze 2011 World Championships
It was just under a year that India had found a new Women’s Doubles pair in the form of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa. The pair had made an immediate impact by winning the Gold at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Having entered the tournament unseeded, the pair put forth a very commendable performance, defeating the 12th seeds Vita Marissa and Nadya Melati in the quarterfinals before losing to the 5th seeded Chinese pairing of Tian Qunlei and Zhao Yunlei in the semis, thereby settling for the bronze medal.
At the time when the Singles game in India was beginning to take small but meaningful steps, this achievement of the pair certainly came as a boost for the doubles game as well.
Although the pair have won a bit too inconsistently since that triumph, their win will certainly go down in the history books as one of the memorable moments in Indian badminton.
4. Pullela Gopichand – Winner 2001 All England Championships
After Prakash Padukone became the first player from India to win the All England Championships in 1980, the country’s wait for a second title was finally fulfilled when in the summer of 2001, Pullela Gopichand lifted the title.
The Indian defeated World No.12 Chen hong in the final 15-12 15-6 to provide Indian badminton with a much-needed boost after a disappointing Olympics in Sydney, the previous year.
The win was certainly a hard earned one for Gopichand, who had to beat a whole host of stars, including Denmark’s Peter Gade in the semifinals, en route to the triumph at Birmingham.
In terms of the significance of the performance, it surely ranks high, considering the lack of depth in Indian badminton at the time as far as Singles was concerned and for Gopichand, it was the culmination of years of toil before the fruit finally arrived.
Sadly,however, his success didn’t quite have the same impact on the upcoming players,for a long time and it took an Indian player another 14 years, to stand on the podium when Saina Nehwal won the silver medal in 2015.
3. PV Sindhu – Bronze 2013 World Championships
After Saina Nehwal’s bronze medal win at the London Olympics in 2012, India found yet another star in the Women’s Singles in the form of Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, who became the first women’s Singles shuttler from the country to win a medal at the prestigious event.
The 20-year-old defeated some highly fancied competitors en route that included the likes of Wang Shixian to join Prakash Padukone as the only other Indian Singles player to win a medal at the event.
While there was no question about Sindhu’s potential prior to that event, she showed here that she certainly had the ability to excel at bigger events, involving some of the most high-profile names in the game.
If one taught that her feat in 2013 was a fluke, she replicated it the following year, winning a second consecutive bronze at the same event.
2. Saina Nehwal – Bronze 2012 London Olympics
Ever since Badminton was first introduced in the Olympics at the Barcelona edition in 1992, India had very little to feel happy about, especially until the Athens Summer Games in 2004.
However, it seemed like the players had found the way to rise to the occasions as Saina Nehwal, in her maiden olympics, became the first Women shuttler to reach the quarterfinal stage of the competition.
But it was four years later in London, that the shuttler provided the ultimate moment in Indian badminton, when she won the Bronze in the Women’s Singles, thereby etching her name in the pantheon of Indian sporting history as one of the greats.
Although the achievement didn’t come in as pleasing a manner as she would have liked with opponent Wang Xin, having to retire at the start of the match, it nevertheless doesn’t take away the sheer magnitude of her achievement.
She will hope to replicate that feat and go one better and get Gold at Rio in August.
1. Prakash Padukone – Winner 1980 All England Championships
There can never be an article on the greatest achievements by an Indian badminton player minus Prakash Padukone’s incredible feat in 1980, when he became the first Indian to win the All England Championships , incidentally in London and not Birmingham,where is staged now.
Padukone defeated many fine players in his route to becoming champion and then in the final, defeated Liem Swie King in straight games to clinch the title.
Three years latre, he created further history when he became the first Indian player to win a medal at the World Championships, clinching the Bronze medal in Copenhagen.
At a time, when India was known for its prowess in hockey and cricket, Padukone’s achievement came as a breath of fresh air and in the coming years, insipred many a bdding athlete to pursue badminton as a career option.