'When I finished the B Com course, sports had taken over 100%'

Sameer Verma speaks of juggling studies and badminton during the early stage of his career, his role model and more.

Sameer Verma exults after winning a point.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

If a player comes as a package, Sameer Verma seems to have a few loose ends. In and out of the badminton circuit with back and shoulder injuries, the 23-year-old clambered back by clinching the Swiss Open singles crown at Basel last week.

Read: Sameer Verma lifts Swiss Open title

The flesh may be weak but the mind is willing--to take on the top guns. Defeating former world no. 2 Jan O Jorgensen and world no. 45 Kento Momota don’t satisfy him. The best is still to come perhaps. “Dhar will become better known now,” he told Sportstar with elan when asked if his small-town roots in Madhya Pradesh were a handicap.

He’s often homesick though, pining for his parents. Big brother Sourabh is just two years older, more a friend and close at hand. Sibling and dad Sudhir have been a boon when battling frustration, frequently banished as Sameer has been to the sidelines by injury.

It doesn’t take much prodding for him to hark back to the early days, coached by Shwetwank Varma of the Sports Authority of India and Shamsher Singh Yadav in the formative schooling years when he chose an individual sport, toughened by competing in higher age groups.

Juggling studies and sport began with a 70:30 ratio. Over time, the former was scaled down to 60, the latter growing to 40. “When I finished the B Com course from Maharishi Vaidik College, sports had taken over 100 %,” said Sameer.

“I grew up on the legends of Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand but over time Lin Dan became my role model,” he said of badminton’s changing influences through television viewing. The financial strain on his father eased when Sameer got kit sponsorship from Yonex in 2010, backing from Go Sports in 2012 and the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Quest for Excellence programme from last year.

The year 2011 sent him on a high like no other, as he rode the junior scene with aplomb. From the Youth Commonwealth Games silver at the Isle of Mann, the bronze in the World Junior championships in Chinese Taipei, Sameer went on to the Asian Junior badminton championship singles silver and team bronze at Lucknow.

Three years later he hit an all-time low, landing on an operation table in the nick of time. While the appendix spells danger when just six cms long, his had expanded to 11! Motivation came from
optimism, Shelleyan in outlook--the good times would invariably follow the bad.