Names of Khwairakpam Manjit Singh and Konthoujam Dingku Singh provide a different flavour to the badminton results in the Khelo India Youth Games here. It was a proud moment for the Manipuri shuttlers — who began by playing gully badminton and carried on their association to play for the school, state and the country — as they took the under-21 boys’ doubles silver medal in KIYG.

It is strange that the state – which has produced top class weightlifters, boxer, judokas and footballers — is not known for its badminton players.

“We used to play for fun. Our homes are very close to each other and we studied in the same class. All the while we have played together. Since 2014 we have been winning medals in National  Championships and have represented the country in the Asian Junior Championships,” Dingku, named after Asian Games gold medallist boxer Dingko Singh, told Sportstar .

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“When we did well in doubles in under-17 and under-19 events, H. Gyanewar Singh (international referee from our state) spoke to Gopi Chand sir. We practised in Hyderabad for a month or so and beat senior players in a tournament. That’s how we got selected for the Gopi Chand Academy. We have improved a lot after joining the academy.”

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According to Manjit, the two friends needed to be more focused than ever. “This is the most important phase for us as we graduate to the senior level. We have to work hard to keep up our performance.”

Following in the footsteps of Dingku and Manjit, two other talented shuttlers — Meiraba Luawang and Bidyasagar Salam — from Manipur have made their mark. Even then, the sport has not been able to garner much popularity.

“Only one or two individuals back badminton in Manipur. Otherwise, there is not much support. In 2014, we had requested one of our ministers to build a wooden floor indoor hall in Bishnupur but nothing has been done yet,” said Manjit.

Nevertheless, nothing has dampened the spirit of the talented Manipuri pair which is out to prove its worth in the big league.