With a consistent display in the last 12 months or so, Parupalli Kashyap ear-ned his place among the elite league of top-ten shuttlers in world badminton.
The 26-year-old, who became the first Indian shuttler to reach the quarterfinals in the men’s singles of an Olympics in London 2012, followed it up with his maiden triumph in the National championships in Srinagar before claiming the India Open Grand Prix Gold crown. With a couple of semifinal entries and upset wins -- the biggest one coming against the world No 3 Chen Long at the Indonesia Open Super Series -- Kashyap climbed to his career best ranking of nine at the end of the 2012 season.
As he prepares for a busy season, Kashyap, who had a stint at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bangalore and now trains at the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad, took time off to have a chat with Deccan Herald.
Last year was one of the best seasons so far in your career. Is there any specific reason for that?
Yes, it was a very good year. There were a couple of reasons. I worked consistently at a higher level every day. Now I show more patience on the court and have learned to reduce my unforced errors.
Gopi sir’s training helped to change my game and there was also change in my diet, thanks to Dr Dhananjay. The physios and trainers at the Gopichand Academy also helped me a lot.
Do you think reaching the quarterfinals of the London Olympics was the turning point in your career?
Of course, it was. London Games gave me a lot of confidence that I performed well on such a big stage. I was the first Indian to reach quarterfinals in men's singles. I wanted to win a medal but the way everyone appreciated my performance I felt good and it reflected in my performance throughout the rest of the season.
It is always difficult to maintain the tempo at the top level. Now that you have reached the top-10, have you worked out any strategy to remain among the elite players in the coming season?
It gets tougher now. I realise that and I'm working very hard on different aspects of the game. I want to get into the top five now, I've the game to do it. My main aim for the year is to win a medal at the World championships and winning the Super Series events.
For me, ranking is secondary now. But victory at the Super Series events is most important. That will help to build my confidence for other major events.
The Indian shuttlers are getting more competitions abroad, is that the reason for their improvement in recent years?
Indian players played many tournaments before too but now the system is better. The coaching is better. Gopi sir has made the difference for all the players. He has made a good system with the physios and trainers. There was no support system before. Gopi sir's experience at the top level has helped the players. He works very hard on us and of course all the players are passionate too.
Could you describe your entry into badminton?
My Mom (P Subhadra) was interested in making me a sportsperson. So she enrolled me in a summer camp at the Lal Bahadur Stadium (in Hyderabad). I did gymnastics initially then I joined the badminton summer camp under Govardhan and Arif sir.
Tell us about your struggles after being diagnosed with asthma as a teenager and how did you overcome it?
Initially I was upset and shocked and I used to get sick frequently. But after I started the asthma medication, I got better. My physique and appetite improved. Hyderabad is the best place for training for me. The climate is perfect for asthmatics. But I need to take my medication every day. I need to be aware of any triggers for asthma all the time, like dust, anything too cold, any change in climate and take the extra dosage to prevent congestion in my chest. It's become a routine now. I need to train for my endurance regularly because I feel my energy level drops if I'm not doing it regularly. I guess it's because of my asthma. I took only a week off in 2012 and it's been that way for the last few years. So it's very tough.
Your views on the Indian Badminton League which is going to start soon...
It's good for the sport in India. I hope it becomes a big success. It's very encouraging for top players as the pay is good. It's encouraging for the youngsters as well. They can see top players in action and learn.
You have a busy season ahead...
Next up for me is the All England Open (March 5-10, Birmingham) and then the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold (March 12-17, Basel). I've got a month to train. So I'm preparing well for these events. I hope I can get a good result.