Lakshya Sen, the new figurehead of Indian badminton, has work to do in Birmingham. Four months ago in Birmingham he became the first Indian in 21 years to reach the final of the All England Championship, only to see the gold medal slip from his hands.
The 20-year-old from Almora will have another opportunity to shine at Arena Birmingham this year and he is keen to go all the way, albeit in a different tournament – the Commonwealth Games, which are due on July 28 start.
“I like playing in this arena, the conditions suit me. I have good memories there and I am very confident that I will do well this time too. This is a big tournament too, so I’m looking forward to doing my best and win.” a medal,” Sen told PTI.
“All the top 3-4 players have a good chance of winning gold and I don’t think about the color of the medal, I just want to go there and focus on one game at a time.” Four years ago, Sen, then a 16-year-old aspiring shuttle player, was glued to his TV as India made history on the Gold Coast by winning the country’s first mixed-team badminton gold.
It was an important year for the “wonder boy” as he won gold at the mixed-team youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, became Asian junior champion in Jakarta and also secured bronze at the World Junior Championships.
“Last time I saw it on TV when India won gold. Before that I also watched (Parupalli) Kashyap Bhaiya (2014) win gold. But 2018 was a beautiful moment. I wanted to be on that team.” Sen said.
“The Commonwealth Games is a prestigious event for India. I think it will come first next to the World Championships. Everyone aspires to compete in the Olympics, but before that you try to get used to so many events and do well at them.
“So I’ve been thinking a lot about how we as a team can repeat what we did last time. It’s going to be tough to win but I’m looking forward to it.” While England were the most successful team between 1998 and 2014 with 8 titles and five-time champions Malaysia also emerged as the dominant force, India managed to tame the Asian giants in the last edition.
This time Malaysia will be without their best singles player Lee Zia Jia, who is ranked No. 5 in the world, but Sen doesn’t believe that will make things any easier.
“Malaysia is a good team, they have 5-6 decent individual players. If they are eliminated it might affect them but we just hope we play well and beat Malaysia and win gold.” Sen, who took part in India’s epic Thomas Cup win in May, had less than ideal preparation for the multi-sport as he was sidelined with a minor shoulder injury and had to miss the two Malaysia events.
“I felt the pain in Indonesia so I decided to take two weeks off and skip the leg in Malaysia. The focus for the first two weeks was on fitness, so there was a lot of off-court workouts and an extended amount of time in the gym. But now the focus is more on skills and badminton training,” said Sen.
Sen, a World Championship bronze medalist, is expected to face Singapore’s world champion Loh Kean Yew and silver medalist and compatriot Kidambi Srikanth during the tournament.
While he has a 3-2 record against Loh, Sen lost to Srikanth during the 2021 World Cup.
“I don’t think much about past performances and even in badminton there are so many tournaments that there isn’t much time. You have to go on and prepare for the next event,” he said.
“But I’m trying to learn from that, talking to my coaches and figuring out some points. The next time I play them, I’ll watch those games and analyze and prepare accordingly.” A product of Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, Sen has been in the shape of his life for about a year.
After securing his first bronze medal at the World Championships in December last year, Sen won his first Super 500 title at the India Open in January and finished second at both the All England Championships and the German Open. He also played his part in India’s memorable Thomas Cup win.
“I’ve been working on my mental discipline and thinking on the pitch and I’ve improved in that aspect over the past few months. I think playing at a very high level has given me confidence, but all the experience over the last year is helping me .” I still have to work on that a lot and continuously.” Another thing that helps him focus is music.
“I mostly listen to Hindi and Punjabi songs before games. I like Arijit Singh and right now I’m listening to his latest song ‘Kesariya’ on repeat,” he says.
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