More power to the racquet!

More power to the racquet!

SHUTTLE SPEAK: Poorvisha S Ram, all of 22, is a badminton champion, and is set for more victories in the future, braving all naysayers

More power to the racquet!

People will always put you down and label you, but you must never cower.” These are words of advice from a  22-year-old girl. And no, this is not any ordinary girl, but India’s number two and world’s number 35 Women’s Doubles Badminton player and Bengalurean Poorvisha S Ram.

Having completed her schooling from Shishu Griha, Poorvisha pursued swimming and badminton with equal gusto as a child, but later on, had to choose between the two. Having been on the court since she was 10, she left the decision to her coaches, who decided that she should focus on badminton. She specialises in the Women’s Doubles category as well as the Mixed Doubles category. In the junior circuit, she has completed a hat trick, winning the national champion three times continuously (2010, 2011 and 2012), something that she considers a memorable milestone.

Poorvisha was only 12 when she represented Karnataka at the national level, and  her first individual win at a national level inter-school competition was in 2008. In 2009, she won second place in Women’s Doubles at the 35th National Sports Festival for Women. Later, she also represented India at the Li-Ning Singapore Youth International Series, winning a silver medal in the Women’s Doubles event. Poorvisha’s current Doubles partner is Meghana Jakkampudi, who also started playing badminton at the age of 10. They train at the Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad, under renowned badminton player Pullela Gopichand himself.

When I ask her why she chose Doubles over Singles, she says, “I really enjoy
playing Doubles and I have never felt like I am sharing glory. It is wonderful that you come together with another person and create something amazing together. The whole idea of women playing Doubles is nice and it teaches you a lot of endurance and patience. And with Meghana, it is great, as we are the same age and played for a-year-and-a-half together in the junior circuit. The partnership has worked out really well as we have the same goal and are very like-minded.”

The duo have participated in many international tournaments this year, including the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold (2017), where they made it to the quarterfinals, and the recent All India Senior Ranking Badminton tournament at Bareilly, where they won the Women’s Doubles. They were also semi-finalists in the Mixed Doubles at the India Open.

Game on
Post P V Sindhu’s outstanding run at the Olympics last year, badminton as a sport has been enjoying a lot of attention. When asked how this has helped her, Poorvisha says, “A lot of people now appreciate the sport and many watch it too, with the
understanding that it is not an easy one. It’s nice that people are now looking
beyond cricket, and that a lot of corporates are coming forward to help players.” In fact, she and Meghana participated in the recent All England Championships, their first Superseries Premier, via a crowdfunding initiative. “My friend’s uncle who lives in Birmingham, is a big fan of the sport and keeps following badminton and what we are doing. When I told him we were looking for help to fund at least our tickets and stay, he reached out to his friends’ circle. Around 30 people came forward and pooled in money for us and we managed to play in the tournament,” she explains.

Naturally, playing at a competitive level requires a high level of fitness and she starts her day at 6:30 am and plays for six hours a day. “The morning hours are spent improving our skills and working on our weak areas, and the evening hours are mostly for gym and cardio routines. Closer to the tournaments, we spend more time
practising together,” she adds.

Life’s lessons
Poorvisha admits that she really has no time to do what other people her age do, and even when she has the time, she has no energy left to go out, as her life is hectic. So, I ask her if it was hard to move from Bengaluru to Hyderabad for training, and her answer surprises me: “It was what I wanted to do for the longest time and I was ready to move in 2012, but my parents insisted that I complete Class 12 before moving out. I was extremely keen to train at the national academy as I wanted to make something out of this sport, and I eventually moved in 2013. Now, at times, I miss home and  friends. But, to be honest, I have absolutely no time to think what is happening back home now.”

However, it does help her that her mother lives with her and she admits that she enjoys watching an occasional movie with her. She also says that the sport has taught her to never stop trying till she succeeds. “No matter how many people tell you that you are useless and that you are wasting your time, you should take it upon yourself to work hard and prove them wrong. You must believe that good will come to you when you work hard,” she asserts.

She is crystal clear about her future goals. “I want to work hard and focus on the game and my long-term goal, of course, is to be able to play in the 2020 Olympics. However, my immediate goal is to be able to up my game to qualify and play in the Commonwealth Games next year,” she says.