“Greatness is a journey. It begins with the impossible and ends with the unforgettable.” 2018 has been unforgettable for Indian badminton and its superstar Kidambi Srikanth, who has been on a dream run lately. In 2017, he equalled the record of winning 4 Super Series titles in a year. Last month, he became the first Indian male shuttler to become world number one as per the modern ranking system. He also won a gold medal in team event, and individual silver, at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games. Recently, the Guntur lad was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri for his achievements on-court. In recognition of his efforts, the Andhra Pradesh state government made him Deputy Collector in his hometown.
Here is what the 25-year-old had to say in a talk:
How did you start playing badminton?
I started in 2001. There was a municipal stadium near my home where my brother used to play, and I followed in his footsteps. At that time, badminton was more of a hobby for me.
Your father was a cricketer. Did he support your decision when you wanted to become a badminton player?
Of course, my father has been very supportive, of both my brother and I. If it wasn’t for the support of our parents, both of us wouldn’t have been playing badminton.
When did you join the Gopichand Academy?
I joined the academy in December 2009 during my junior days. I joined as a doubles player, but ended up becoming a singles player.
How did you make the transition from a doubles specialist to a singles player?
I wasn’t a doubles specialist. During my junior days, I used to play all three events: singles, doubles and mixed doubles. After my junior years, it was Gopi sir who decided that I should focus on singles. This decision turned out really well.
What does Kidambi Srikanth have which other players in the world don’t?
My aggressive style is a unique quality. Very few players in the world play aggressive badminton. Credit goes to Gopi sir for building this style and making me what I am today.
Before any important match, what goes on in your mind? How do you handle pressure?
I don’t think about the end result. The only thing which matters to me is giving my 100%. I want to be happy every time I come off court. Whether I lose or win, I just want to be happy with the way I played. That one hour against my opponent is very important. Before any tournament, I train for about 3 to 4 weeks just to play that one specific hour really well. I just want to be happy after my match, and don’t want to have regrets of not trying any particular stroke or strategy.
This year has been quite special for you. You won gold and silver at the Commonwealth Games and also became the world number one. What do you have to say?
This year, we won our first team gold medal. It was a huge honor for me to be a part of this team and I am really happy with the overall team performance. Around the same time, I became world number one and that is also something I will never forget. It is something which every sportsperson dreams about, but very few achieve. I am happy about that and would like to thank every person who has been part of my career. I also won my first individual commonwealth medal. Though I missed out on gold, I am happy with how I played throughout those ten days.
What are your future goals?
I have the World Championships and Asian Games lined up in July and August, respectively, and I am focusing on doing well there.
What has been the role of the government of Andhra Pradesh and our Honorable Chief Minister Sri Nara Chandrababu Naidu in your career?
It is important for every sportsperson to get support from the government. I think that our Hon’ble CM Sri Nara Chandrababu Naidu has been doing really well and has been supportive to every sportsperson. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sri Nara Chandrababu Naidu garu, my coach Gopi sir and the government of India for helping every sportsperson in our country. If this kind of support continues, I am pretty sure every sportsperson will do well in upcoming tournaments.
Any message you would like to give to your fans and the young children of India?
I am very happy and thankful to my fans for their support and wishes. For the young children, all I have to say is that you can pursue any sport you want, because now we have the infrastructure required. Government of Andhra Pradesh is supporting sports-persons in every manner possible, and if you give your 100%, then you will definitely achieve success.