Indian badminton legend Prakash Padukone was conferred BAI Lifetime achievement awards in a grand ceremony on Monday.
In presence of his wife and daughters -- Deepika and Anisha, and a host of current Indian and international players Padukone received the award from India's vice-president Venkaiah Naidu. Padukone, who had reached the pinnacle of his career in 1980s claiming Danish Open, the Swedish Open and prestigious All England Championships was awarded a cheque of Rs 10 lakh, a citation and a shawl.
The 63-year-old Bengalurian was overwhelmed my emotions during his speech. "I got emotional because of the way the game has grown from a time when I was playing. I felt bad for some of the players who came from the smaller towns, many of them are very good players," he said adding he was receiving the award on behalf of all the Indian players who played during his generation.
"It is a privilege for me to receive this lifetime achievement award in its inaugural year. I played badminton at a time when not many knew what the sport was all about. I am glad to have played a small part in what game has achieved today. I played purely for the love of the game without expecting anything in return. And to see how much I can challenge myself despite there being no facilities.
"I am extremely delighted with the way badminton has progressed since I started playing in 1960s. The number of new players taking up the sport every year, the new state of the art infrastructure facilities coming all over the country, media coverage, sponsorship opportunities, increase in the number of tournaments played and conducted every year, consistently good performances at the international level by India's top players are in my opinion are some of the reasons that have gone on to make badminton the second most popular sport in the country after cricket."
Padukone, however, said BAI needs to work with state associations to encourage talent in the country especially in smaller towns and cities. "The goal should be to establish at least one academy in each zone to begin with and the long term goal should be to have one academy in each state fully funded either by the ministry or BAI," he said.
"If appropriate systems are put in place India can be on par with other leading badminton nations of the world. However if we do not achieve this, it will not be due to lack of talent in the country."