A star in the making

K. MURALI KUMAR

The stint at the Tata Padukone Badminton Academy did a world of good to Ruth Misha’s career. Big wins came her way, so did international exposure.

When V. Ruth Misha, aged 18, won the junior National badminton crown in Nellore in December 2007, she capped a dream run during the season which saw her finish on the podium a couple of times. Her best performance before the Nationals came at the Union Bank All-India junior ranking tournament in Bangalore. It was more than a coincidence that Ruth conquered her archrival Sikki Reddy of Andhra Pradesh in both finals, in Bangalore and Nellore.

Ruth’s victory in Nellore came against all odds as she battled an upset stomach and spells of uneasiness to complete a memorable triumph.

Ruth had an unusual start to her career after she was initiated into badminton by her father, who felt that she needed to improve her appetite as she was a poor eater. “I was not too keen on playing badminton, but after winning a State-level junior tournament, I felt that I could do well in this sport,” said Ruth Misha. Though she trained under a few coaches, it was her stint at the Tata Padukone Badminton Academy that did a world of good to her career. Big wins came her way, so did international exposure. In the past two years, Ruth played in the Singapore Open, Malaysian Open and Polish Open, besides the Junior ABC Championship. “Winning the Nationals is big, but I have other goals and it is premature to talk about them now and I would rather focus on day to day play,” she said.

Ruth is strong, fit and has a good range of strokes, but her coaches, Prakash Padukone and U. Vimal Kumar feel that she needs to work on her consistency and improve her backhand. “There is no doubting her talent, but I would like to see her make winning a habit,” said Padukone.

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K. GOPINATH

Iron man is her passion

Breaking the stereotype image of a software geek is Anuradha Vaidyanathan, the CEO of Pat N’ Mark, a firm that specialises in intellectual properties. The 27-year-old’s real passion is one of the most demanding sports called ‘Iron Man’. It is a long distance triathlon involving 3.8km of swimming, 180km of cycling, and 42.2km of running. Anuradha, who prefers to be called ‘Anu’, is perhaps the only Iron Man athlete in India. This speaks v olumes of her iron will. Why Iron Man? Anu’s answer is simple: “I believe that you cannot accept that certain things cannot be done.”

Anu took interest in Iron Man as an undergraduate at the Purdue University, USA, in 2001. “When I ran my first Iron Man race, the Canadian Iron Distance, nobody believed that an Indian could run such a race,” said Anu who finished the event in 13 hours. She was placed No. 43 in a field of 66 athletes. In preparation for that race, Anu did a half Iron Man in Auckland (half the distance of Iron Man — 2km swimming, 90km cycling and 21.1km running), completing it in seven hours. In May 2007, Anu competed in Brazil and finished fifth in her age group. Later, in the Ashburton half Iron Man, Anu came third in her age group and eighth overall with a career-best time of six hours and two minutes.

She is now aiming to compete in the World Iron Man meet, but finding a sponsor has been a big hurdle. “This sport has no takers in India. The sports officials have been urging me to compete in triathlon, which I find is not up my alley challenge-wise,” Anu said.

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MOHAMMED YOUSUF

Making his mark

The recent Ranji Trophy season ended on a rather gloomy note for Hyderabad. Although the team narrowly escaped relegation to the Plate group, the performances of most of its key players left a lot to be desired. However, it was widely acknowledged that D. B. Ravi Teja, aged 20, was the find of the season.

Teja put up an outstanding performance with the bat and his perseverance saw him amass 653 runs from six matches, with two centuries and four fifties.

The youngster, coached by Appa Rao, said that he was keen on improving his performance. “I want to convert the good starts into hundreds,” he said. His batting style is aggressive and he rarely gets bogged down.

By his own admission, Teja hates to be cowed down by the bowlers and loves to hit out. But at the same time he is aware that this could be a problem against really class bowling and therefore he is now in the process of honing his technique and tightening his defence.

A great fan of Michael Clarke of Australia, Teja is working hard to retain his consistency over the next couple of seasons. He is disappointed that Hyderabad could not make it to the semifinals. “No doubt, I have enjoyed a wonderful season but it would have been much better if my team had reached the knockout phase,” he said.

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S. Krithicka-R. RAGU

TAMIL NADU'S HOPE

The National sub-junior table tennis championship did not bring the host any cheer. On the last occasion G. Sathiyan brought joy to Tamil Nadu with his success in the sub-junior boys’ section, but this time the happiness was limited to the good performances of two players — S. Sudarshan and S. Krithicka. Sudarshan reached the sub-junior boys’ singles final and Krithicka the girls’ semifinal. Krithicka’s talent is well known in the state tournaments. Rarely has she suffered defeat. When she shifted her base from Salem to Chennai, it spoke volumes of her resolve to do well. A student of St. John’s School, Villivakkam, Krithicka delighted the few spectators at the sub-junior Nationals with her attacking game that floored the top-seeded Mallika Bhandarkar of Maharashtra in the quarterfinal. Down by two games, the Chennai girl overcame her self-doubts and opened out on both flanks as Mallika simply caved in. Krithicka, however, could not sustain the tempo in the semifinal against Anushree Hazra of Bengal, the eventual champion. Nonetheless, a state which has been looking for a new force on the distaff side, has found one in Krithicka.

Sudarshan fell at the threshold of glory. The lanky boy from Sishya showed glimpses of his ability but more often looked over-cautious and that was his failing. The way he came up, beating Surojit Das, who earlier accounted for the tournament’s top-seed Arnab Adhikari en route to the semifinal, Sudarshan inspired confidence. But after getting past Rajib Sarkar his tentativeness ended his chances against Avik Das of North Bengal.

S. Sudarshan-K.V. SRINIVASAN

The lanky boy from Sishya showed glimpses of his ability but more often looked overcautious and that was his failing.

The way he came up, beating Surojit Das, who earlier accounted for the tournaments top-seed Arnab Adhikari en route to the semifinal, Sudarshan inspired confidence. But after getting past Rajib Sarkar his tentativeness ended his chances against Avik Das of North Bengal.

By Kalyan Ashok, Abhijit Sen Gupta, S. R. Suryanarayan