Shuttling past a landmark

Raise the bar, urges Padukone as PPBA turns 20

It was an evening to reminisce about an old smash and an odd drop, an evening to celebrate a landmark in a long journey.

It was twenty years ago that Prakash Padukone, Vimal Kumar and Vivek Kumar got together to give shape to a dream. On Friday, it was time to recapture the spirit and reaffirm the priorities that have guided the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy over the last two decades.

A reunion of the former trainees brought together faces that once charted the course of the sport in the country. Joining Prakash and Vimal were the class of the nineties – Pullela Gopichand, Deepankar Bhattacharya, Manjusha Kanwar and Aparna Popat formed the cream. Also on view was a clutch of players that followed, benefiting from the expertise of these masters. And lapping up the words of wisdom was the young generation of trainees, eager to trace their footsteps.

Flashback was the theme as the achievers shared their experiences. Good times, tough times, above all, a time for learning and moving ahead in life.  “Can’t believe it’s twenty years,” said Prakash while Vimal traced the journey that started at the Canara Union in Malleswaram with support from sponsor BPL, before eventually taking flight at the Karnataka Badminton Association Stadium.

“It seems the just the other day that Aparna Popat returned with a silver from the World Junior Championships in 1996,” said Prakash, underlining the challenges of the early days when badminton wasn’t as big a sport as it is now in the country.

Aparna was one of the early birds. Gopichand and Dipankar fine-tuned their skills here, dominating the national scene and making their mark internationally. All three, and also the rest of the alumni who expressed their thoughts of their time at the PPBA, highlighted the lessons in life they picked up at the academy, making them ready for the tough world outside the badminton court.

Gopichand, who has cut a path for himself on the coaching front with his academy in Hyderabad, thanked Prakash for showing the way, first as a player and then as a guide to young players. “Coaching maybe a thankless, painful job but you showed it is possible,” said the national coach.

Anil Kumble, the chief guest of the evening, commended the passion and commitment that have driven the academy forward for 20 years, with its wards reaping rewards by the handful at every level. The eager young group, beginning to make their mark, then heard the words of wisdom from the master himself.

“Players should not become obsessed with issues that are not in their control,” said Prakash. “No amount of whining will make you a better player. Focus on things in your control, be aware of your abilities and do everything to become the best you can be.”

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