The last two years have been bittersweet for Lakshya Sen. In 2022, he was the toast of the nation after winning gold medals at the Thomas Cup, Commonwealth Games and India Open. He also reached the final at the prestigious All England. In contrast, 2023 was a near-washout, with the only successes being the title at the Canadian Open and the historic team silver at the Asian Games.
One month into the 2024 season, the 22-year-old is hoping that his capricious fortune finally settles. Recently, at the Indonesia Masters, he won his first competitive match since beating the current World No. 2 Shi Yu Qi at the Asian Games (September 2023).
“It was a relief,” Lakshya told Sportstar, during an interview arranged by Red Bull, about snapping the six-match losing streak . “It was a close match against a tough opponent (Weng Hong Yang). I felt more confident about playing the next round as well.
“I played a good match against [Anders] Antonsen and later on he went on to win the tournament. It was just a matter of two, three points. So lots of positives to take,” he added.
After breaking out of the rut, Lakshya’s eyes are now firmly set on the Paris Olympics. With the qualification window set to end on April 28, he has just a handful of tournaments to secure his place. In the ‘Race to Paris’ rankings, he is 19th; only the top 16 will qualify.
“There has been a lot of pressure, but as an athlete, you have to face it,” Lakshya said. “It’s my first Olympic qualification experience. I too made mistakes, and I’m still learning.
“Now, I see it as a challenge. When people are not expecting that much, you can play freely but at the same time, a lot is at stake. I have to be really focused and sharp for the next three months.”
For inspiration, he needs to look no further than P.V. Sindhu, who has moved to the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence here to train under the legendary Prakash Padukone and former National Champion Vimal Kumar, also Lakshya’s coach.
“Something to learn from her is how focused and passionate she is, even after two Olympic medals. She is going out there [on to the court]. [It is] even harder to get the third one. It’s really motivating.”
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