For 16-year-old shuttler Maisnam Meiraba, 2019 has been a breakthrough year.

Following the recent bronze medal in the Bulgarian junior international championships, he’s now in Panchkula playing a junior ranking tournament which is also a selection tournament for the upcoming World juniors.

“We have a lot of shuttlers now. The popularity of and interest for the sport has been on the rise,” he says over phone about his home state Manipur that is generally associated with football. Boxer Mary Kom and weightlifter Mirabai Chanu are among those sportspersons who've made their name from the region.

Now Meiraba, though it’s too early, has been marked out as a potential star player.

READ | Indian junior shuttlers win 3 gold, a silver and 2 bronze at Bulgarian Open

Since January, he has won four consecutive junior (u-19) ranking tournaments in Bengaluru, Vijayawada, Chennai and Trivandrum, reached the quarterfinals in the German junior International, won bronze in the Yonex-Roza BTY junior International in Thailand and won gold in the White Nights junior International in Russia.

While Meiraba shuttles between Imphal and Bengaluru where he trains at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, Samiya Imad Farooqui, who won the girls’ singles gold in Bulgaria and is considered as another potential star in the making, hails from and trains in Hyderabad.

She won her maiden junior (u-19) ranking tournament in Chennai early this year.


Hyderabad's Samiya Farooqui won the gold medal at the Bulgaria junior international championships.


“I would say Meiraba’s is power game, while Samiya’s is an all-round game,” says the junior national coach Sanjay Mishra.

“Meiraba’s strengths are his speed, power, and accuracy. He has to work on fitness; improve his stamina. For instance, to reach the final of, say, a five-day tournament, you need to win four or five matches in a tight schedule.

“Samiya, I think, has to work on power. She’s very good with half smashes; deception, in general. Also, she’s a fighter; doesn’t give up easily, ” he adds.

Meiraba agrees that he might be found lacking in physicality when compared to the other Asian players, especially from China and Indonesia. “They are physically dominating,” he says.

Samiya, who has been touted as the next Saina Nehwal, believes she has to work on reducing unforced errors. The 16-year-old has been juggling a lot between the junior and senior circuits and will not be available for the World juniors, for she will be focussing on the upcoming senior tournaments in Myanmar and Nepal.

Asked if it’s extra pressure to live up to the big expectation - being considered as potential future stars - both of them say it motivates them and makes them want to maximise their potential.