As a little kid, Bharath Latheesh used to accompany his two elder sisters whenever they went to badminton classes near his home in Dubai. The flying bird excited him and soon he was chasing and hitting them too.
With his children hooked to the shuttle sport, K. Latheesh brought an Indonesian coach Budi Haryadi to train them. His sisters are off the sport now but Bharath is currently a rising star in Kerala badminton.
With the 26-year-old Imam Adi Kusuma also coming in, the 15-year-old now has two Indonesians as his coaches. Both Haryadi and Kusuma are guiding Bharath at the ongoing Kerala State championships here.
“My senior coach Haryadi used to train Olympic and World doubles champions Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan, and Greysia Polii at Jakarta’s Jaya Raya Club when they were young, just before they went to the National camp,” said Bharath who entered the under-19 and under-17 boys singles finals at the State championships.
“The Indonesian coaches know their badminton, it’s in their blood. They have different movements, everything is different. When you play with them, it’s easier. I train with them for three sessions of one and half hours each.”
With some of the planet’s best, including Denmark’s Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen, Singapore’s World champion Loh Kean Yew and Canada’s Brian Yang shifting their training base to Dubai and with India’s World Championships bronze medallist and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lakshya Sen also visiting occasionally, the UAE has become a major hub for badminton.
“Sometimes, when they are short of players, they call Bharath and his sparring partner Imam Adi, to spar with them. Sparring with Viktor has helped Bharath immensely,” said his father Latheesh, a Dubai-based director with facilities management company Berkeley which also sponsors Bharath.
“Getting to play players of this level motivates you, takes your confidence to a different level.”
And Bharath’s goals have become bigger.
“My long-term goal is an Olympic gold. My full body, my full life is prepared for that,” said the youngster who hails from Kollam and who is in the ninth standard in Dubai’s Delhi Public School where he only needs to write his exams under a ‘Rahhal’ system.
“I plan to start playing international tournaments from the age of 17. I only play the State events and national-ranking tournaments now.”