Parupalli Kashyap is the latest male star to bedazzle the Indian badminton circuit.
The Hyderabadi pulled off a minor miracle when he beat Singapore’s Derek Wong to clinch India’s first ever Commonwealth games gold medal in badminton in 32 years. Kashyap trains under Pulella Gopichand, a former All England champion, in his hometown.
Kashyap is in distinguished company. Prakash Padukone and Syed Modi are the only other Indians to have accomplished the said feat.
For the 27-year-old, public recognition may
have finally arrived. Indian Men’s badminton, in recent times, has been overshadowed by the exploits of Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Jwala Gutta, their female counterparts.
Kashyap might just be the man to continue Gopichand’s legacy.
The Padma Bhushan awardee won the All England championship in 2001 but knee injuries cut short his promising career in its prime.
At the 2012 London Olympics, Kashyap reached the quarter-finals only to lose to top seed Lee Chong Wei.
Very few are aware that Kashyap is asthmatic.
Morten Frost of Denmark was another badminton great who suffered from asthma.
The lanky Indian athlete has to renew his TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) certificate from WADA every year.
Kashyap was diagnosed with the chest ailment in 2005. It almost brought his fledgling career to a standstill.
But the fighter in Kashyap came to the fore.
“It was a big shock for me. Many thought my career was over. But I was determined to fight back and put in a lot of hard work to overcome the disorder.”
“It used to be very, very bad. I used to be sick at every tournament. I had to keep taking antibiotics and I would feel ill all the time.”
Once his condition was diagnosed, the shuttler went from strength to strength.
“Before 2005, nobody told me my condition was asthma. But once it was diagnosed and I started the right medication, I grew quickly in strength. I could eat well and I got healthy. I’m still asthmatic and I take medication once a day, but I’m fine otherwise.”
Kashyap carries an inhaler (or two) on court for every game and does extra endurance work.
On asthmatics and sport:
“Basically, asthmatics have to keep on working on endurance. You can’t build it up and stop working on it for a while, like the others. My endurance goes down if I don’t work on it. So I do endurance workouts even during tournaments, when other players don’t.”
At the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth games, Kashyap had clinched bronze defeating compatriot Chetan Anand, perhaps now better known as Jwala Gutta’s ex.
Kashyap was awarded the Arjuna award in 2012.
A little-known fact on Indian men’s badminton: India has more players in the top 100 than any other nation.
“That’s a great achievement. But if you want to consistently be in the top 10 or have a number of players winning big titles that is tougher. We have very good bench strength now in men’s singles especially. But going ahead and winning big titles, you need a ten-fold investment.”
Kashyap believes that if he works hard enough he can meet the levels of Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei, the current top two in the game.
Kashyap’s journey to the top has just begun. Let us hope for many more medals from the young man lighting up an Indian future in the Chinese-dominated sport.