Lakshya sets his eyes on the bigger prize

Asked about his long-term goals, teenage badminton sensation Lakshya Sen replied, “Hopefully, I can qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and do well there.”

Badminton player Lakshya Sen and PPBA founder Prakash Padukone meet in PPBA campus on July 24, 2018 after Lakshya Sen won the Asian Junior badminton championship in Jakarta.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

These are happy times for Lakshya Sen. The teenager is set to meet Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, followed by a few more felicitation functions in his home State.

The title run at the recent Badminton Asia Junior Championship in Jakarta has brought him into the spotlight, but Lakshya has his sight set on the bigger prize – making a mark on the tough senior men’s circuit.

In this respect, a pragmatic Lakshya believes that he has a “long way to go”. The professionals play at a frenetic pace, which makes for an unnatural setting for a fledgling junior.

READ| Asia Junior Championships: Lakshya clinches gold, creates history

Lakshya believes that a high level of fitness is required to make a smooth transition. The 16-year-old, however, has had his share of injury troubles. A shoulder injury kept him out of action for a few
months early this year. At Jakarta, Lakshya had to take painkillers to manage a shin injury.

“This win has given me confidence, but the senior tour is a different level altogether. I still have a long way to go,” Lakshya, who trains at Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) here, told Sportstar on Tuesday.

“I need to work on my strength and stamina, as the senior men’s matches are longer and faster," Lakshya said.

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His coaches at PPBA, which includes a distinguished co-founder duo in Prakash Padukone and Vimal Kumar, believe in easing their promising ward into the professional circuit with baby steps. For now, Lakshya will compete in the smaller International Series and International Challenge events, before graduating to the Grand Prix level.

Lakshya himself is wary of expecting too much too soon. “You cannot expect immediate results in the senior circuit. I’m taking it slow because I have to give my body a few years to develop fully," Lakshya said.

Lakshya is focussed on improving his senior world ranking, which currently stands at 76. “I’m going to play a lot of tournaments, and try and break into the top-50 by the end of this year,” he said.

The Almora lad has shown that he has what it takes to mix with the big boys. Last year, at the age of 15, he became the youngest player to make it to the final of the National Championship. A few months later, he won the Bulgaria Open International Series.

In May this year, he took a game off five-time World Champion Lin Dan before going down 21-15, 15-21, 12-21 in the second round of the New Zealand Open.

Asked about his long-term goals, Lakshya replied, “Hopefully, I can qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and do well there.”

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