Sai Praneeth wins Sportstar Aces 2020 Sportsman of the Year in racquet sports

Badminton player B. Sai Praneeth claimed the Sportsman of the Year in racquet sports at the Sportstar Aces Awards on Monday.

Sai Praneeth become the first Indian shuttler since Prakash Padukone to win a medal at the BWF World Championships.

For quite some time, I was waiting for one big moment and that has come in the form of a medal in the World Championship in Basel (Switzerland).

It has been one of my dreams to be a medallist in what continues to be one of the two biggest events for any shuttler — the other being the Olympics. And to be the only one after Prakash Sir (Padukone) to win a men’s World Championship medal is something which makes me feel proud.

Yes, I didn’t have the kind of success I had after winning the worlds bronze in 2019. Definitely, I should have won a couple of other tournaments. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that I was playing badly. You need a combination of luck on a given day to keep producing the kind of results expected of you.

In a way, the demanding schedule has not really given a chance for me to think of any changes in my game or technique. Though, honestly, I don’t feel there is any need for such.

All that I look for is a good stint in the PBL (Premier Badminton League), for, every time I did well there, I kept improving. So, leading Bengaluru Raptors’ challenge in the PBL will mean a lot in this Olympic year.

It is a great feeling and a huge challenge too, to compete with your fellow players and it is a wide open race to book a slot for the Tokyo Olympics this year.

Everyone like (Kidambi) Srikanth, P. Kashyap and Lakshya Sen, who is making big strides in recent times, has a chance to be there.

Personally, my target is to win a couple of Super Series titles to be there in Tokyo.

It all depends on how well I train before the Olympics and if everything goes according to the plan of Gopi Anna (chief national coach P. Gopi Chand), I can move closer to realising another big dream of winning an Olympic medal. By all means, it was a very happy year as a lot of good things have happened, like getting the Arjuna Award, winning the worlds bronze and getting married. There is some feeling of contentment even as there is intense desire to move to the next level in this highly competitive circuit.

And coming to the Sportstar award, it is surely an inspirational moment. Being recognised by a jury of such eminent personalities will also mean greater responsibility. This award means a lot to me as I embark on a difficult journey to the Tokyo Games.

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Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, chess ace Vishwanathan Anand, The Hindu Publishing Group chairman N. Ram, former India hockey captain M. M. Somaya, Olympian shooter Anjali Bhagwat and Olympian shuttler Aparna Popat selected the deserving winners in categories involving young athletes, teams, coaches and parathletes.

The awards look to create a medium of knowledge and vision exchange as it brings all stakeholders of Indian sports under one roof.

As told to V. V. Subrahmanyam.

You can watch the Sportstar Aces Awards telecast on Sony Ten 1 SD & HD on Sunday 26 January at 8 PM (IST).

1st Repeat : Monday 27 January at 6 PM, 2nd Repeat : Tuesday 28th January  at 7 PM

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