Lakshya Sen - Flying the family flag high

The young badminton player has already made a mark with some memorable performances. We pick the lad from Uttarakhand as a star for the future and will be following his progress closely. He has begun his foray into the big league by competing in International Series and International Challenge events.

Lakshya Sen during a training session in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Age: 16

From: Almora, Uttarakhand

Education: Beer Sheeba School (Passed Standard X, CBSE in 2015, pursuing Standard XII via distance-learning).

Discipline: Badminton

The Beginning: Lakshya was introduced to the sport by his grandfather, Chandra Lal Sen. Chandra, a National-level badminton player in his heyday, was hailed as the ‘Bhishma Pitamah’ of badminton in Almora. The Sen family lost Chandra in 2013.

In 2010, Lakshya's father, D.K. Sen — a seasoned badminton coach at the SAI (Almora) — travelled to the Karnataka Badminton Association in Bengaluru along with a bunch of young players for a National-ranking tournament. His eldest son, Chirag Sen, impressed former National champion and Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) chief coach Vimal Kumar.

Vimal was keen on getting Chirag to the PPBA. His younger brother, Lakshya, too, wanted to train at the PPBA, but the chief coach felt that he was too young to be away from his family.

Lakshya, who competed in the under-13 category in the National-ranking tournament, was adamant, and finally got his way. The brothers moved to Bengaluru and began training at the PPBA.

Father: D. K. Sen says: “I was very reluctant to allow Lakshya to move out of home. He was only 10 at that time. Obviously, as a father, I was worried about the negative influences that he could face in a big city. Thankfully, Lakshya is a disciplined boy, and has stayed focused purely on badminton all these years. It also helped a great deal that he had Chirag by his side.

“When Lakshya shifted to the PPBA, I told Chirag that he had to take care of his little brother. He readily agreed, and to this day, he always stays close to Lakshya to make sure that everything is fine."

Mother: Nirmala Dhirendra Sen (school teacher) is devoted to her sons. She worries for their safety and well-being. She is thrilled when Chirag and Lakshya visit their Almora home to celebrate their triumphs.

Mentor: Vimal Kumar says: “We wanted to sign only Chirag at first, but Lakshya kept persisting. He was a short boy, and though he had talent, we thought he was way too young. But because of his persistence, we decided to sign up both brothers.”

Achievements: 2014: Wimbledon under-19 champion

2014: Swiss Open junior tournament champion

2014: Aros junior under-15 Cup (Denmark)

2016: Bronze (junior Asian Championship)

2017: World junior No. 1 ranking

2017: Youngest-ever Senior Nationals runner-up (defeated top-seed H. S. Prannoy in the quarterfinal)

Lakshya’s aim: With the help of travelling coach, former women's National champion Sayali Gokhale, Lakshya is looking to make a smooth transition to the tough senior circuit. He has begun his foray into the big league by competing in International Series and International Challenge events.

The PPBA management wants Lakshya to "ease" into the Grand Prix circuit. By 2018, it wants him to be a regular on the Grand Prix Gold and Super Series circuits. As a scholarship winner of Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), Lakshya receives the much-needed financial support.

Strong point: “Even when he was 10, Lakshya showed outstanding temperament. This caught my eye. He is also not the kind to complain and moan. Whatever is told to him, he follows.

“If a coach suggests a minor correction, he implements it immediately. He grasps technical advice in no time. He is very malleable. This is what separates him from other players,” says Vimal.