H.S. Prannoy, the winner of the bronze medal in the World Championships held in August 2023, shared his journey which he described as “topsy-turvy” and full of injuries. He explained that the initial years were very difficult and transitioning into the senior circuit was challenging
“That time I had a lot of injuries. But that taught me how to work (on the court), and how to work off court. I have understood that managing the body is the key. I’m glad things are working out now,” Prannoy said during a panel titled ‘Perseverance and Sports’ at Sportstar’s Sports Conclave - Focus Telangana here on Thursday.
Pullela Gopichand, Prannoy’s coach, praised the shuttler for his ability to bear the pain and fight through adversity.
“The way he has been fighting through the physical pain is truly remarkable. I just wish that people could understand my feelings and write about it accurately. When I look at him, I see a person who is in pain, but still fighting with all his might. I have never seen an athlete bear such a heavy burden. I hope he continues to do so for a long time to come,” said Gopichand.
Over the past two years, Prannoy has achieved a series of remarkable results, including his crucial victory that led India to win the Thomas Cup championship in 2021. Prannoy considers this period as the best for India, which is the outcome of a decade-long effort dedicated to the sport.
“The past decade has been nothing short of outstanding. We have achieved numerous victories and consistently raised the bar. Winning anything less than a Super 750 tournament is no longer considered newsworthy. This has become the new standard for us. Initially, it was the women’s team, but now, the men’s team has also set this benchmark,” he said.
“The singles players and the doubles duo of Chirag and Satwik have all contributed to this achievement. I am thrilled about the positive changes that have taken place. Winning the Thomas Cup was a significant milestone that we did not anticipate. However, it was the result of 10 years of hard work and dedication. We were able to build a team that was worthy of being crowned world champions.”
The 31-year-old hopes he can emulate the performance at the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, which will feature a similar men’s team as the Thomas Cup.
Gopichand also lauded the team’s spirit in bookending Indian badminton’s long journey which started with a snub from the Commonwealth Games.
“It is amazing to have people like Prannoy. Some of these seniors anchored the team. You need someone to say that this is our team and everyone respects that. This team did that. Srikanth played the leader, and then you have younger players like Lakshya Sen. (In) 1994, the Indian team was not sent to the Commonwealth because we did not feature in the top six in any category,” he said.
“The journey from not being part of the Commonwealth Games to being World Cup champions is what Indian badminton is. 1989 and 1999 were the two times India made it to the finals of the Thomas Cup, an event which has 16 teams. Then today we talk about being World Champions. Whether it is my All England, Saina’s first pre-quarterfinals in the Olympics in 2008, or the 2010 Commonwealth Games medals, or the 2014 ones, I think this is really the journey of Indian badminton. I have seen this. We have been told Indians can never be champions or good coaches. I have heard this from the press and bureaucrats.”
On how he motivates his players to draw out their best, Gopichand said, “When people watch a game from the stands or on TV, they might wonder how a mistake happened. However, it’s not easy to make the right decision under high pressure, and humans are prone to errors. Most victories come from doing what is necessary and having the discipline to do it, even if it’s not something you’re used to.
“Sometimes, you have to do something that you’re not comfortable with, but doing it with discipline will lead to success. If you don’t have the discipline to do what’s needed, you will lose, but that’s okay because you can always come back the next day. Personally, I’m not usually strict, but I take the preparations seriously. If you have the discipline to do what’s needed, even if it’s not what you’re used to, you can become a champion.”
This formula of Gopichand has worked wonders for Prannoy. He admits the strength of their partnership has been compounded by their chemistry and the addition of Guru Sai Dutt to his coach’s corner.
“It has been 14 years since I first met Gopi sir. He knows me inside out, and I believe it’s important to have someone you have known for so long sitting behind you. He knows me more than I know myself, which gives me a lot of confidence. He encourages me to try new things, and even if they don’t work out, he is okay with it,” he said.
“This is something I need sometimes. His support has made a huge difference in my game. I remember once he asked me to play a particular shot, and I just couldn’t get it right. For five days, he made me practice that shot, and in 2019, I needed that shot in the pre-quarters. Thanks to his guidance, I had the courage to pull it off. These small tweaks and adjustments can make all the difference. I hope he continues to travel with me.
“As for Guru, he was once my opponent, but now he gives me instructions. We have developed a strong friendship, and I appreciate that he can offer advice in a way that is both constructive and supportive. It has been a pleasure working with both Gopi sir and Guru, and I feel that we have the necessary connection to win a major event.”
The bronze medalist from the World Championship is currently targeting the Paris Olympics. However, to participate in this quadrennial event, players must first complete the qualification process, which involves competing to secure a spot in the Games. Despite the pressure, Prannoy is not too worried about chasing ranking points, as he already has a plan in place.
“In our sport, it’s difficult to determine the perfect time to peak. However, it’s crucial to maintain a consistent training schedule. Our training process is what will enable us to qualify for the Olympics. It’s essential to identify the tournament you will be competing in and target specific points. Focus on preparing for that tournament. While we can prepare for the Olympics in a period of 2-3 months, we should not attempt to peak before that,” he said.
The Conclave was held in association with Hero We Care — a Hero Motocorp CSR Initiative, Carrera, Indian Oil, ISBC, NTPC, Khan Study Group, KPMG, Sprint Diagnostics, Sneha Fresh Chicken, Great Sports Tech, Epione and NewsX. The day-long event can be followed live on sportstar.thehindu.com.
- US qualifies for Copa America despite 2-1 loss at Trinidad; Sergino Dest ejected for arguing
- Oscar Pistorius will have another chance at parole after nearly a decade in prison
- Vinicius Jr launches anti-racism campaign in Brazil
- Brazil will stay true to identity against Messi’s Argentina, says coach Diniz
- West Indies squad for England ODIs: Holder, Pooran out; Uncapped Rutherford, Forde included