Kidambi Srikanth went through two of the most traumatic phases any sportsperson would dread to even think of.
First, when he fell unconscious during a training session at Gopi Chand’s Academy here before the last edition of 2014 Commonwealth Games and secondly, when he had the longest break away from sport for four months in 2016 because of an injury.
When his proud father Kidambi Venkata Sesha Krishna looks back now, after his son has become the World No.1 in men’s singles rankings, he struggles to control his emotions.
Officially, Srikanth becomes the first Indian to be World No.1 in men’s singles. Though the legendary Prakash Padukone was the best during his hey days, there were no such rankings then.
READ: Kidambi Srikanth becomes world No.1
The only other Indian shuttler who was No. 1 earlier was London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal.
“We just didn’t know what happening and what was in store for him when he was hospitalised then. We felt terribly down then. But, by God's grace he was back on his feet. Yes, it was the most difficult phase when we look back," he recalls.
How does he feel now?
“Honestly, we were hoping this to happen last year-end but because of injury he had to skip a few Majors. But it is better late than never,” he says.
“Srikanth should stay longer as No.1 as Lee Chong Wei did for more than 190 weeks. Not easy but not impossible,” says a confident father.
“The fact that this World No.1 ranking has come within a week of the Indian team winning a historic team gold in the Commonwealth Games makes it all the more special,” says KVS Krishna.
What is his advice to the champion shuttler? "Stay cool on and off the court. Be honest," says Krishna even as he and the proud mother Radha Mukunda are predictably in a celebratory mood.
The champion shuttler’s father traces the fabulous journey from Guntur Urban where 18 years ago, Srikanth used to walk across from his home to the Indoor Stadium as the parents wanted him to be in the cooler ambience than dabble with anything on the streets in the heat.
“Well, being myself a sportsperson (played cricket till district level), the early thoughts were to just indiscreetly find out where he was good. And, it turned out to be badminton,” recalls KVS Krishna.
“The huge plus was that my elder son (K. Nanda Gopal) being a badminton player and the first to make a mark, Srikanth quite naturally followed where he went. That's how the two went on to do well in the circuit,” he says.
“Well, once Nandu moved to Gopi Academy in 2007, within two years Srikanth joined him there and that is clearly the decisive moment of his career. Now, thanks to Gopi all these results are coming,” says a visibly delighted father, who shifted his base from Guntur to Hyderabad after Srikanth started making waves in the badminton circuit.
Far away from the limelight, Kidambi Nandagopal has been the quiet contributor to the success story of his more famous younger brother Srikanth.
For, Nandagopal who was in the top three in India in men’s singles and doubles and mixed doubles, was actually the first to make an impact on the national badminton scene long before Srikanth made his entry.
So, how does he feel about Srikanth’s achievement? “To tell you honestly, two weeks before he left for the Commonwealth Games, he was telling me that he the ranking is going change and that he would be the No. 1. And, we are absolutely delighted with this achievement,” says Nandagopal in a chat with Sportstar .
“Yes, complete credit goes to Gopi bhai and aunty (Gopi’s mother Subavaravamma). For all on-court training to the chief coach and off-court caring and the kind of discipline she inculcated amongst all of us,” reveals Nandagopal. “There was a phase when Srikanth looked like quitting the sport especially after that critical health problem in 2014. But, then Gopi Bhaiyya was always there and he is primarily responsible in the resurrection of my brother’s career,” he says.
“As a player what I admire the most in Srikanth’s achievements is the way he beat the big guns of world badminton like Lin Dan, Chen Long and Lee Chong Wei (in the ongoing CWG) in the finals is something really laudable,” says Nandagopal who is one year older to Srikanth.
“Winning four Super Series titles is something really extraordinary for any player and that too for an Indian and I feel that was the decisive phase of his career,” says Nanda Gopal.
“There is one big difference I see in his approach to a match. If he is fully fit, his game reaches a new level and if he has some nigles he looks a different player. But the best part is that there are no reactions of any sort either in a win or a loss. He remains the same cool guy which is truly remarkable,” signs off the elder brother.
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