I just love badminton, says Lakshya

The 16-year-old from Almora (Uttarakhand) moved to Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) in 2010 and has not looked back ever since.

In February this year, Lakshya became the World No. 1 in junior category.   -  G P SAMPATH KUMAR

Lakshya Sen, 16, has been away from his home in Almora (Uttarakhand) since the age of nine. It would be natural to assume that he misses his family and friends. “Sometimes, I miss them. But at the same time, I just love badminton," Lakshya says.

His move to Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) here happened in unusual circumstances. In 2010, Lakshya’s father, D.K. Sen - a respected badminton coach - brought a group of youngsters to compete in a national-ranking tournament at PPBA here. Among this bunch was his eldest son, Chirag Sen.

PPBA chief coach, Vimal Kumar, recalls,"At first, we wanted Chirag to join PPBA. Lakshya was playing in the under-13 section. He was a brilliant prospect as well, but we felt that he was too young to be away from his parents. Surprisingly, Lakshya was adamant about moving to PPBA. He persisted, so we signed on both brothers,” Vimal says.

Just a year later, the young ward proved his worth, when he won an under-11 title at Singapore. “Even at that time, he showed outstanding temperament. This caught my eye. He is also not the kind to complain and moan. Whatever is told to him, he follows,” Vimal says.

Lakshya and a few other promising juniors were then inducted into a special programme, wherein the shuttlers were regularly sent on foreign exposure tours. “The boys were taken on 10-15 day camps to national training centres at Indonesia, Malaysia, Denmark, France and other countries. Instead of competing in small domestic events, we felt that this is a better option to develop their game,” Vimal says.

The results began to show in quick time. Lakshya dominated national-level age-group tournaments, and captured a fair share of international titles as well. In February this year, the shuttler became the World No. 1 junior – a significant milestone.

The true test has arrived now, with Lakshya taking his first steps into the gruelling senior circuit. It has begun on the right note, as the teenager won the Bulgaria Open International Series a few days ago. He defeated top-seed Sam Parsons in the first round, and didn’t look back.

Lakshya has been helped along by Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ). The not-for-profit organisation has stood with Lakshya for six years now. A professional team, which consists of coaches, physios and physical trainers, provides all-round support. Former national champion, Sayali Gokhale — one of the coaches – usually travels with Lakshya to overseas tournaments.

Former All-England champion, Prakash Padukone (PPBA co-founder and OGQ Board of Director member), acts as a mentor. “After every tournament, I speak to Prakash sir. He has taught me to be disciplined and professional,” Lakshya says.

A clear plan has been put in place to help Lakshya gain success on the senior circuit. “We are working on improving his core strength, which is the key to explosive movements on the court. For the next few months, he will compete in International Series and International Challenge events, and then graduate to Grand Prix. By 2018, hopefully Lakshya should be a regular on Grand Prix Gold and Super Series circuits,” Vimal says.