Prannoy celebrates gains at World Championships

For a seasoned campaigner like H S Prannoy, a quarterfinal finish at the World Championships would not count for much under normal circumstances. But it is nothing short of a medal this time, given all that the shuttler has endured in the last three years.

Prannoy's only target now is to qualify for the Paris Olympics.   -  REUTERS

For a seasoned campaigner like H S Prannoy, a quarterfinal finish at the World Championships would not count for much under normal circumstances. But it is nothing short of a medal this time, given all that the shuttler has endured in the last three years.

Prannoy has been fighting two battles -- against opponents on the court and his own body.

A former world no.8, Prannoy was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (a digestive ailment in which stomach acid or bile irritates the food pipe lining) during the 2018 World Championships.

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Then in November 2020, he tested positive for coronavirus and has since been battling the after-affects of the infection.

"Post COVID, the lining of my lungs got inflamed. I had a constant cough," Prannoy said.

"I've been always in pain. When there are long rallies, when you are gasping for breath, you are pushing the muscles and airflow. There is friction in the lining. It hurts." Prannoy said he met a specialist in September, and he can feel a difference now.

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"We confirmed that it was inflammation in the lung, medication was not recommended, the only way out is natural healing. So I tried breathing exercises, made changes to my diet, which anyway I had to as I had gut issues earlier," he said.

"The breathing sessions helped. It made a difference, and I am 30-40 per cent better, I have been feeling better." It reflected in his performance as he notched up a morale-boosting win over Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark to make the quarterfinals of the Indonesia Masters.

"It is getting better, I tried different things from September, and I can see the difference in my game and other aspects of my physical condition. I can play longer matches."

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Talking about his win over Axelsen, Prannoy said: "That felt good. It has been a long time since I played a good match. He has been extremely consistent. There were patches when it could have ended in straight games, but I hung on and did what needs to be done."

Prannoy said he suffered a back injury ahead of the European circuit events.

"Europe could have been better, but before going, I had a back sprain, I couldn't play well. I couldn't cancel my tickets as I had booked them ... My back was in bad shape, but in Indonesia, it was better." At the World Championships, Prannoy shocked world no 9 NG Ka Long Angus in the first round, got the better of Malaysia's Daren Liew and then beat world no 11 Rasmus Gemke.

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He lost to eventual champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore in the quarterfinals.

"It was a tough draw. I played some good matches in the first few rounds. It was going to be tough to win a medal from the bottom half, but I'm proud of what I could do this week..," said Prannoy, who was on the verge of pulling out due to lack of sponsors and funds.

"Next few months, it will be like that...I have to take things in my stride and continue to trust the process. I need to be careful with what I eat and drink, monitored constantly." Prannoy said his only target now is to qualify for the Paris Olympics.

"I plan to play India Open and Syed Modi International. But my main target now is the 2024 Paris Olympics. It is clear from my end. I have to trust myself, good victories or bad losses, continue training and results will come," he signed off.

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