The rising star

The rising star
He is just 16 years old but has already won laurels for his nation in the international sporting arena. Satwik Sai Raj from Andhra Pradesh was marked as a rising star of badminton a few years ago after winning titles in both doubles and mixed doubles category. The ongoing Premier Badminton League sees the young star give his best on the court after a successful  year.

Now training at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad, Satwik is part of ‘Hyderabad Hunters’. Having recently played a doubles match with World No 1 Carolina Marin, Satwik talks to Rajitha Menon about the experience and the challenges he faced while following his passion.

When did you start becoming interested in badminton?
I was interested in this sport ever since I was a child. I started playing badminton from the age of seven onwards but I started taking it seriously only after I turned 11. At that age, I started playing at the district level and then progressed to the state level.

An important milestone in this journey?
I reached the quarterfinals of a National level event in my first try itself. It was a big achievement for me and a major morale booster.

Is anybody else in your family interested in sports?
Most of them are. My father and my brother play badminton themselves while my uncle practices volleyball. So right from my childhood, I have grown up in an environment that was conducive to sports. This has probably shaped and influenced me.

How do you feel about your journey so far?
I feel very good about it. I have come a long way from when I started and even though I still have a long way to go, the journey so far has been incredible.

How was it to play with Carolina?
It was very exciting to play with the champion herself. She was very helpful and gave me tips about how to play well, staying confident and so on. I did not feel nervous at all while playing with her.

What were some of the challenges you faced after taking to this field?
Mainly financial ones. It is very difficult to get sponsors and tournaments are an expensive affair. My coaches want me to play at least 15 tournaments in a year to improve my ranking and move upwards. However, it costs about Rs 10-12 lakhs per tournament and it is not possible for me to meet these expenses myself.

Who has been your inspiration?
I like Sachin Tendulkar, Dhoni, Roger Federer and so on. In badminton, Gopi sir is the person I look up to.

An advice to the hopefuls?
If we work hard we can achieve anything in life. P V Sindhu is an example of that. We used to see her training for the olympics and wonder at her grit. Now she has come back with the silver medal.

What more can be done to promote this sport?
It will be great if financial assistance can be provided to the players. There are many players who are struggling for funds and are restricting themselves to playing only domestic tournaments as the international ones are too expensive. It is here that events like the ‘Premier Badminton League’ help by letting lesser known players showcase their talent. The government should also look at ways to support players

What next?
I am going to play the ‘Malaysian Open’ next week.

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