Picking the right battles on path to Commonwealth Games gold, the Lakshya Sen way

Since India’s Thomas Cup triumph in May, Lakshya had played just three competitive matches leading into CWG, partly to protect a dodgy shoulder. But at no point did he seem severely undercooked.

Lakshya Sen’s mentor and coach, U Vimal Kumar  said the biggest takeaway from the Birmingham trip was how the youngster managed a tricky draw and the pressure to win.

Lakshya Sen’s mentor and coach, U Vimal Kumar said the biggest takeaway from the Birmingham trip was how the youngster managed a tricky draw and the pressure to win. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Since India’s Thomas Cup triumph in May, Lakshya had played just three competitive matches leading into CWG, partly to protect a dodgy shoulder. But at no point did he seem severely undercooked.

Success begets success. It has especially been true for young Lakshya Sen.

In a series of firsts since December 2021, the 20-year-old has won a medal at the World Championships, clinched a BWF Super 500 title (India Open), reached the final of the All-England Championships and played his part in India winning the prestigious Thomas Cup.

On Monday, he added the Commonwealth Games singles gold, on debut, belying both his age and experience.

“It was my first experience at the CWG…I didn’t put too much pressure on myself regarding results,” said Lakshya, on his arrival at the Padukone Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence, his training base, on Wednesday. “I just went with an open mind. Looking at the draw I had the confidence that I could do well.”

“I had given myself three to four weeks to train for this tournament and the World Championships (starting August 22). I skipped a couple of tournaments including Malaysian and Singapore Opens. That period of training helped me and I am sure it will in the coming days as well.”

Badminton at the CWG is a tricky competition. It isn’t a patch on the standards that one would encounter at the Asian and World levels. But that brings with it the pressure to win, especially for players from India, considered one of the leading badminton nations. The way Lakshya managed this was the biggest takeaway, felt U. Vimal Kumar, his mentor and coach.

“I was most impressed with his temperament,” said Vimal. “There were not many great players in the draw. But he dealt with the expectations well. He could have so easily lost the semifinal. Again, in the final, he was in a tricky position. But he came through.”

The fortnight in Birmingham also revealed a new kind of steeliness in Lakshya. Since the Thomas Cup triumph in mid-May, he had played just three competitive matches leading into CWG, partly to protect a dodgy shoulder. But at no point did he seem severely undercooked.

“These past few weeks’ level is the perfect example,” Lakshya explained. “When I was skipping a couple of tournaments, not playing for five to six weeks, I knew that I won’t be as match fit. But I managed it. Now, I need to recover, keep this form and maintain the standards across weeks.”

Central to this is the role of noted physio Heath Mathews, who was added to Lakshya’s team at the nth hour, as part of the TOPS scheme.

“The expertise he brought was great. It gives you great confidence when someone like him says ‘you are fit. your shoulder is fine’. He really helped me win the tournament.”

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