Prakash Padukone Curated
Former Indian Badminton Player
CURATED BY :
Being an Indian Badminton legend, did you want your daughters to follow your path and pursue a career in badminton?
Given how calm you were on the court, is it really a necessity according to you to show aggressiveness on the court?
How did you as a parent handle Deepika moving to Mumbai at just 18 years of age to kick start her acting career?
How much of an important part do sacrifices play in a successful career?
What according to you is a factor that helps in achieving big things in life?
One of the biggest achievement of your career was winning the All England Badminton Championship back in 1980 by defeating Liem Swie King, how do you look back at the victory given how it sort of popularized badminton in India?
What reward did you get for winning the All England Championship in 1980?
How difficult is it to maintain the top spot once you become the No. 1 in any sport?
What life lessons have you taught your daughters?
How do you compare yourself to Badminton legends?
How did you support your daughter Deepika’s Live.Love.Laugh foundation which creates mental health awareness?
What do you have to say about the negative speculations and scrutiny that come with the rise of social media platforms?
What is your benchmark for the India of tomorrow?
When did you start playing badminton?
When did you realize that you could do great things in badminton?
Which period according to you acted as the rising tide for Badminton in India?
What went through your head when you were invited by the Danish Badminton League to train with their players? How tough was the decision to go to Denmark?
You won 9 straight National Titles in a row but lost the 10th one against Syed Modi. How did you that defeat that ended your near perfect run?
Throughout your career you have said that you took inspiration from Indonesian Badminton great Rudy Hartono. How was the experience of getting to be around him and learning from his trade?
When did you start giving importance to physical fitness?
You got fed up of the Indian Badminton Association’s lack of devotion to the sport and started your own organisation called the Parallel Indian Badminton Federation back in 1997. How much of a change did your federation bring to the sport?
How has the rise of players like Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu helped Indian badminton?
Do you have any regrets in your career?
What was the difference that set you apart from the older Indian badminton players like Dinesh Khanna who were active before your period?
How did you learn from your peers?
What was the driving force for you to succeed in badminton?
How did keep a steady focus on badminton with all the distractions around you?
What kind of sacrifices does a person have to make for excelling in their particular field?
How difficult of a transition was it going from the national level to the international level?
What made you leave India to go play in foreign countries?
What new things did you learn while training with the Indonesian players?
Back in your days, the Indonesians and Malaysians were at the forefront of the sport. What separated them from Indian players?
Did you start seeing yourself as a contender to win the All England Title when you were at your peak during the late 70s and early 80s?
How did you handle the pressure of playing the final of the All England tournament which is considered one of the most prestigious trophies in badminton?
You became the first Indian to win the All England Open. How was it like afterwards when expectations from you were getting higher?
How did you maintain the level of a champion after becoming the No. 1 in the world?
How did your parents took your decision to move to Denmark to play there?
Did you ever think that your decision to retire was a bit rushed?
What made you start the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy?
How much emphasis do you give to discipline in your academy?
Where do you see your academy ten years from now?
With badminton becoming huge in recent years thanks to the Badminton League and corporate sponsorship, do you think it has grown at the grassroots levels too?
What advice would you give to youngsters who are looking to make a mark on the sport?
It is no secret that you have had an uneasy relationship with the Indian Badminton Association. What is the problem with them according to you?
Do you see an Olympic Gold for India in the near future or are we a long way off?
What was the vision behind the creation of Olympic Gold Quest that you founded alongside Geet Sethi?
Is the post of the Indian Sports Minister something that entices you?
Do you think there’s a good number of badminton players or is the sport stagnating?
Do you see India becoming a sporting hub in the future?
Is there a chance of India becoming a great sporting nation?
How does one gain a killer instinct?
What kind of an impact do you think media coverage has had on other sports barring Cricket?
Where do you see India as a sporting nation head towards in the next few years?
How important is proper economic activity around sports for a country to become a sporting nation?
What made you come up with the idea of the Olympic Gold Quest organization?
What’s the thought behind the Olympic Gold Quest organization’s recent focus on much younger athletes?
Which sports do you think has caught the eyes of the general public and will have a focus on in the future?
What difference do you see between an Olympian from the 1990s and an Olympian from the 2020s?
What was the defining moment of your career?
What is the right age for a child playing two or three sports to start specializing on a select one to make a career out of?
Is the over dependency on technology hampering sports?
What are Indian sportsperson bringing to the global level?
What are some areas where technology and sports can combine to provide better results?
Is there a link between people playing sports just for fitness and those who play in search of absolute excellence?
How important is mental toughness? How did you prepare yourself? What advice would you give youngster to make them tougher mentally?
Can you shed some light on your childhood and education?
I did my schooling in Bangalore. That was when I started playing Badminton at Canara Union courts in Malleshwaram at the age of 7. During 60’s Badminton was not that popular in southern India. Another game called BALL BADMINTON which was an outdoor sport was very popular in the south. In the whole Bangalore there were only 5 or 6 Badminton Halls. That was how popular this sport in the 60’s and 70’s. It was only after my All England victory in 1980 that badminton became a popular sport with lot more media coverage and sponsorship. Today it is one of the most popular sports in the country after cricket.
Why doesn’t every state promote a particular sport in an in-depth way?
Depending on the infrastructure available and the popularity of a particular sport, different states promote different sports. This is quite natural and happens throughout the world.
What are your views on coaches being able to prioritize designing their own autonomous academies?
We need more academies in all sports with dedicated coaches to produce good results. There is no dearth of talent especially in the rural areas but players in smaller towns and cities do not get enough opportunities to display the talent. For better results we need to focus more on youngsters and in rural areas by providing them infrastructure equipment and coaches.
Can you share the precious memory of your victory at the ALL-England Championships in 1980?
It was always my dream to win the All England title. I worked really hard before the 1980 All England in March and was in very good form. I won the Danish Open and Swedish Open prior to winning the All England in March 1980 thus I was able to win 3 big tournaments in a row back to back in 3 weeks. It was a dream come true and will remain the highlight of my career.
In 1994 you started Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy. What was the motive behind?
We started Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in 1994 to provide good facilities for talented youngsters to excel at the international level. All facilities were provided free of cost for the first 10 years through sponsorship. This helped players who were not so rich to take up the sport. All their expenses were taken care by the Academy which has produced many champions in Badminton.
Like you, Saina Nehwal also became World’s number one under your guidance. How was the experience with her?
Saina Nehwal is a very hard-working player and is very committed. It was a great day for Indian Badminton when she became the World No.1. It was unfortunate that she could not do well in the Rio Olympics due to an injury. But she is bound to bounce back in the next few months.
P.V Sindhu proved herself by winning silver Olympic gold medal. How do you envision the future of this sport in our country?
P V Sindhu did the country proud by winning a silver medal at Rio. She beat some good players on the way to the finals before losing to Carolina Marin. Nevertheless this has been the best performance by an Indian badminton player in the Olympics.
Please share the details about your NGO – OLYMPIC GOLD QUEST. How do our athletes benefit from it?
Olympic Gold Quest supports Olympic medal hopefuls with financial support. Athlete decides how to use the fund allotted to them depending on their need. Foundations like OGQ have made a big difference in the performance of Indian athletes in multi – sport events.
What are your personal future plans in regards of your academy and NGO?
Right now we are focusing on the Junior Players in our Academy. Our aim is to produce an Olympic champion from here in the next 2 Olympics in 2020 & 2024.
What is your advice to our budding badminton players?
Please remember there is no shortcut to success. To achieve something in life one should be willing to work hard and make sacrifices, if required. One has to be patient to reach the top and the road along the way is not easy. One can achieve success in any field if you have the 3 D’s Dedication, Discipline and Determination.
Any particular reason for the shift in focus to the juniors?
It’s a long-term vision. We thought we’ll look at the future and concentrate more on the juniors. In terms of commitment, we felt their commitment levels were what we expect. They have less distractions, and also, they don’t have so many international tournaments, so it’s easier to fix a programme.
Is working with the seniors more tough, physically and in terms of other resources?
Yes… seniors require more time and energy. Also, after a certain level, they know what to do. Let me put it this way: we feel we can be more useful for juniors than for seniors. Seniors, after playing at a certain level for a while, develop certain ideas. After a certain stage, they know most of it (training requirements). We felt there’s no way we could give them a lot of time. If we spend the same time and energy on juniors, the junior level could go up, by the time they become seniors.
Do you see your academy becoming a feeder centre?
Yes, something like that. The seniors have other academies to turn to.
Once the juniors from your academy cross over to other academies as seniors, are you worried that you will not be credited for their success?
That doesn’t matter. I’m not worried about credit. They’ll still be a product of our academy… we’ll still keep them if they’re exceptionally talented, and if they decide to stay back. But generally, we’d like to see them move on when they’re 21. There are less complications (in this arrangement) too.
What is your opinion on the level of our senior players?
I think they can be much better. They’re focused and committed, but not the commitment levels required for the top-ten. Saina is an exception. Among the boys I don’t see anybody with that level of commitment. The technical skills are okay, but not good enough to be in the top-ten. I’m talking in general terms, but there could be one or two exceptions. Most of them will get one or two good wins, but they will not be able to dominate or be consistent, like Saina. You know Saina won’t lose to players below her level. I still believe we should stick to our strengths. I’m telling the boys now, concentrate on speed with accuracy. Our traditional strengths are accuracy and deception. It’s not possible to play the way the Chinese do and hope to beat them.
The UK overhauled their infrastructure after finishing 36th in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and now in the previous Rio Olympics they finished second just behind China. Does India need something of a similar approach?
There’s a major difference between any other country and India. What India lacks is professionalism of sports federations. Unless you professionalize the federations and the Indian Olympic Association, and unless they start becoming more accountable, responsible and transparent, and appoint the right people, no amount of funding, no amount of effort, no committee will yield results. In the UK, the moment you give funds then everything else is in place. Everybody is accountable, everybody is responsible and if you don’t meet the target, you are out. Here, that’s not the case.
Are you still adamant on the thought process of needing the right people to run the Indian Badminton federation?
Yes, the right people will have the resources and the bandwidth. For everything, you need permission here. Even if a private enterprise, let’s say Reliance or some other company, wants to put in 1,000 crore rupees and take over all sports. You still cannot run the sport the way you want unless you have the cooperation of the federation. In everything, the federation intervenes. If you want to reach 50 medals in eight years, unless you revamp this system, it’s not going to happen. Everything is manipulated here. When you go, your nephew or niece comes, takes your place and you still control the federation. It’s a deep-rooted malaise, which I hope we change at the earliest but it’s definitely going to take time.
Do you think only athletes should be involved in sports administration?
The right people need not know anything about sports, but should be willing to learn. The Indian Institute of Management guys who know finance, marketing, etc. are the right people. In fact, federations should be run like a corporate house. In England, badminton associations have a CEO and then they have different departments like marketing, development, sponsorship, coaching, youth development, etc. Each department is headed by somebody and each year they have a target to meet. Here, even if you give them money, it’ll still produce the same result it had been delivering earlier. Here, they don’t have plans, they will blow up the money. The Rio Games was a classic example. There was no shortage of money. There was no proper planning and suddenly when the money came, they didn’t know what to do. I don’t think any federation has any plan.
What’s the next step after putting the right people in the sports federation?
Then things will automatically happen. I don’t need to tell them, those people will know what to do. We just need to take the right decisions and the implementation will happen automatically.
How do you think India should prepare for the Tokyo Olympics?
I think we should be very realistic and aim for 10 medals, nothing more than that.
Should we identify a small number of areas to focus on for better results in Tokyo 2020 Olympics?
There are only five or six sports where we can get a medal at the moment. Even the government has identified the sports in terms of priority sports and non-priority sports. We have chances in archery, boxing, badminton, wrestling, shooting and in team sport – hockey.
Does India need to invest in coaches and training of coaches in a big way?
Every sport needs to have a short-term and long-term plan. They need to have proper targets, and more than anything else, it’s the monitoring that is important. In those sports, where we don’t have the expertise, we should hire top coaches in the world. One of the major flaws which we need to address is to coach our coaches. For the long term, maybe for the 2028 Olympics, we need to hire best coaches in the world and pay them whatever they want. These coaches should train our coaches. Our coaches have the talent, they are willing to learn, but they don’t have the latest training methods. They are not sent abroad, no world-class coaches are brought here to train them. How do you expect them to deliver? If you want to prioritize, first get the best coaches. In one year, these foreign coaches can train 100 coaches. We need to create a separate institute for coaches where they are provided every possible facility in terms of theoretical knowledge, practical training and scientific support. These 100 coaches can then produce so many good players.
What about investing in support teams who do their work behind the scenes?
If I have to prioritize, I’ll put that in number two. In this area, we lack knowledge. Slowly we are catching up, but we are still 20 years behind the U.S. or Europe. Things like peaking, periodization and how to do it, all should be laid out on paper, so that athletes peak at the right time. During the week when you are at the Olympics you deliver your best performance. And support team will only help when the athletes are already there. It cannot be substitute for talent and effort.
In countries like UK, US and even Kenya, they have a school-college/university-club model to produce elite athletes. Do you think India should follow this model as a long-term plan?
Yes, we should have that model. But then we can talk about it and we can write anything about it, but it’s not going to happen soon.
The U.S. has a multi-discipline, high-altitude Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, where over 500 elite athletes can train at the same time. Do you think India should also build such facilities?
Of course, it will help a great deal. But it depends on the faculty, what kind of freedom they are allowed. The moment it’s in the Sports Authority of India’s hands, it’ll have restrictions.
Sports federations here depend a lot on government funding. Should they market their sport the way Indian cricket board has?
I have always said that federations, instead of blaming Indian cricket, should learn from it. Federations should learn how to market their sport and generate money through corporate sponsorship. But again, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. I may sound pessimistic, but I’m being realistic.
Given how Indian badminton has produced results, do you think other federations should follow this model?
Basically, you need some good private academies. If you don’t get right opportunity at the right time, the talent fades away.
What is your expected performance from Indian players in badminton at the Tokyo Games?
I think we have a good team until the 2024 Olympic games. In terms of medals, I can’t promise. Overall, for the next eight years we don’t have to worry, especially in men’s singles. We have good depth. Players are doing well at various levels, starting from age group of 13 to 23 years. With the right kind of support from government and private sports foundations and more media coverage, it will only get better. Probably the base will widen and more players will come up. If you see the entries in the junior tournaments, it’s mind-boggling. And the way the sport is spreading, every second or third day we get enquiries about building courts, stadiums and academies from all over the country. It’s definitely on the right track. I wish the federation is little more proactive and gets right people involved. A lot more can be achieved because there’s plenty of talent.
With no recent stand out performances in the doubles department, do you think we need more specialized doubles coaches in badminton?
Doubles is much more physical, played at much more fast pace… Internally, we don’t have the expertise in doubles coaching. If we want to excel in doubles, then we need to hire foreign coaches because the technique used in doubles is so different. I think there is no coach in India, including Pullela Gopichand or me who can produce top-level doubles players.
Do you think it’s possible to win multiple medals in badminton at Tokyo Games?
It is difficult to predict medals, but it’s definitely possible. It’s extremely difficult, but it’s possible to get medals in men’s singles and ladies singles or maybe two in men’s singles or two in ladies singles. But we have to work extremely hard for it. It’s not a strong possibility, but definitely there’s a possibility. There’s more possibility in men’s singles than in ladies singles. In ladies’ singles, there’s a gap after Saina (Nehwal) and (P.V.) Sindhu. I have not heard or seen anyone who is of that standard. In men’s singles, we have six or eight players among the top 10 to 40 (world ranking), such as K. Srikanth and P. Kashyap though they have not done as well as Saina or Sindhu. There are more players in men’s singles and I feel there are greater chances of success, but again I’m not taking anything away from women’s players.
How did your badminton journey begin?
Initially, I started playing without the intention of taking it up professionally; I just loved the game. My father used to play this sport, which is how I started playing. The first time I played was in a marriage hall; a very small one. We could play for only six months in a year, on days when there were no weddings. So that was how popular badminton was in the sixties.
How did your parents respond to people asking them why you were practicing a casual sport like badminton so much?
We never thought of what the game could give us in return or if we should make a career of it because we loved it so much. That came much later. Whenever we got an opportunity, my brother and I with a few friends would go and play badminton in a small club in Malleswaram. It was just a passion. Whatever happened later was just a bonus.
Did you face problems managing both school and badminton?
We managed it quite well actually. It really helped that we could only play for six months in the year. This way, we focused on our education for the other six months. Plus the game was not very popular in India back then so that added to it. I was fairly good in studies too. Of course, I couldn’t take up streams like engineering or medicine, but I finished my graduation. Whenever I was in town, I made it a point to attend the classes regularly. I would do for my physical training in the mornings, attend school in the afternoon and go for training again in the evenings. At that time, there weren’t as many tournaments as there are now, so it really helped us balance both aspects of our life.
What was it like, being a professional badminton player in India at the time?
Coming from a fairly middle class family, my parents were very much against it. So I started working for a bank back then. When I won at the Commonwealth Games and the All England Open, I received a one-year contract to play badminton, but I had also just got two promotions at the bank. My parents were quite conservative, so they told me, “You have just become a senior and you have a good job. Why do you want to risk it all to play a sport like badminton?” I said I have to continue playing, and if I have to remain on the top, I have to take that risk. They argued saying “But what will you do after one year?” to which I said, we will see after one year. It was a huge risk, but I played well and my contract got extended. I continued playing for six years, which helped me stay on the top. And the rest is history…
Do you think Saina Nehwal should have skipped the Rio Olympics given her injury?
I think Saina didn’t realise how serious her injury was before going to Rio. Since the Olympics comes once in four years, she took a chance and the injury turned out to be serious. Had it been any other tournament, I don’t think she would have participated.
How do you perceive Indian badminton future?
After Saina and PV Sindhu there is a big gap in the women’s section. There aren’t many women players except for may be Ruthvika Gadde. In comparison to that, there is a decent bench strength among men. Junior players like Siril Verma and Lakshya Sen, among others, are capable of reaching the world’s top 10. I believe Indian badminton is in safe hands.