Aparna pat for worthy successor

Passing the baton

Aparna Popat

Before Saina burst on to the scene, however, it was Aparna who scripted a new path for women’s badminton in the country.

Unrivalled for close to a decade, Aparna won a record nine consecutive National titles from 1998. A gold medallist at the SAARC Championships, she was runner-up at the World Juniors in Denmark in 1996 and claimed the French Open in 1998. She also clinched silver at the Commonwealth Games at Kuala Lumpur the same year, won a bronze at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 and represented the country at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.

Now an occasional mixed doubles player, Aparna is testing her skills behind the microphone in the World Badminton Championships. “I think writing is easier than talking. Getting the names right is the most difficult part of it,” she noted, referring to some tongue-twisters from the East Asian countries.     

Talk invariably veer to current sensation Saina, whom she defeated to lift her penultimate National crown in 2005. “This is the first time I am watching her live after 2006. She played a bit slow in her first match. Her focus was just to win the match,” Aparna observed.

What does she have to say about her successor? “I wouldn’t say Saina is the most talented player we ever had. She doesn’t have a great repertoire of strokes, but she makes up for that with her work ethics. She has the best good coach and the best of facilities to train at.

The most striking feature about her is her temperament. She is mentally very strong. But obviously, she has worked hard to gain it all. All that she has achieved hasn’t just come by luck,” she remarked.

Does she miss playing? “Not exactly, though I miss being fit though!” she quipped.

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