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'Qualifying for London Olympics was dramatic, almost filmy'

Last updated on: May 2, 2012 15:40 IST

'Qualifying for the London Olympics was dramatic, almost filmy'

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Parupalli Kashyap is India's entry in the men's singles badminton at the London Olympics. For the last four months, he and fellow-shuttler Ajay Jayaram were locked in a fierce battle for that lone berth to London. In the end, it was he who pipped Ajay to that flight, with some help from Chinese player Chen Jin, who withdrew from his quarter-final clash against Kashyap, giving him an entry into the semi-finals, at the India Open. 

The 25-year-old Kashyap, who battles an asthmatic condition as much as his opponent every time he steps on court, spoke to T S Sudhir about what went through his mind during the India Open, as he kept one eye on Jayaram's progress, and his preparations for the upcoming Games.

Congratulations on qualifying for the London Olympics. You really had to labour for it.

Thanks. Oh, yes, I am happy that I qualified. Since my injury at the Syed Modi tournament in December, I lost my way, and the last four months Ajay Jayaram was ahead of me on points. I missed playing three crucial tournaments. Coming into the India Open Super Series, I was 1000 points behind Ajay and I knew I had to play two rounds more than him to be able to earn a berth for London. My second round match against Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand was really tough. I knew I had to win it to keep my hopes alive for the Olympics.

Was London always at the back of your mind while you were playing in the India Open?

In fact, when I was playing my second round match, Ajay was playing against Lee Chong Wei on the adjoining court. My thoughts were scattered all over. Usually I do not bother about a game that is going on on another court, but this time I was keeping an eye on the scores and found Ajay was doing well in the match, which went into three games. I was more drained mentally than physically! 


Image: Parupalli Kashyap
Photographs: Hong Wu/Getty Images

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'I have three months to prepare myself'

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While Ajay lost to Wei, you won against Boonsak. Then you got a walk-over in the quarter-finals against world No 4 Chen Jin of China, who had a wrist injury. That must have been a pleasant surprise.

Yes, but it would have been better to reach the semis and qualify for London by beating Chen. I was confident of beating Chen. It is a bit awkward to qualify this way. When I shook hands with Chen, I could feel the swelling in his h#8743 it was in bad shape. I would say the manner in which I entered the semis was rather dramatic, almost filmy, after all the tension of the last four months. I was reminded of a dialogue in one of the films I saw recently, in which the protagonist says `Life is on the wire. The rest is just waiting'. 

Have you spoken to Ajay after the tournament?

No. Though we always share the room when we play tournaments and are good friends, we have not spoken after this tournament. It is a strange feeling. If I were in his shoes, I would have gone through what he must be feeling now. 

You train with Pullela Gopichand at his academy in Hyderabad. How did he react?

He was obviously happy, since he has trained me. But, then, remember, he is also India's National coach. At the end of the day, he wants India to do well.

Though your world ranking will now move from 30 to about 25 after the India Open, anything beyond 16 means you have to be prepared for a tough draw at the Olympics.

Yes, it depends on my luck. I could be playing the world No 1, or even No 16, in the first round. I have three months to prepare myself for everything. 


Image: Parupalli Kashyap
Photographs: Julian Finney/Getty Images

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' I need to ensure my fitness is absolutely perfect'

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What are your plans between now and July?

I played so many tournaments this year in search of points that I had decided, irrespective of whether I qualify or do not qualify for London, I would focus more on rest and training post-April. I will play a couple of tournaments in the next three months. I need to ensure my fitness is absolutely perfect. I need to peak at the right time in July-August.

Health is another concern. I will take extra care of my diet to ensure against cold, cough and asthma. I played the World Championships at the same venue last August, so I know what kind of conditions to expect. I played very well in that tournament, losing from match point -15 in the second round. That was a match I should have won. If I had, I would have qualified for London minus all this drama. 

In terms of weather, it won't be cold in London in July, so that should not be issue for your asthma.

Yes. Besides, most international venues regulate their temperatures well unlike in India, where there are no heaters inside the stadium. Which is why when the Nationals are held in India in January in a very cold city, it aggravates my asthmatic condition. 

What does being part of the Indian contingent to the Olympics mean to you as a sportsperson?

It is pride and honour in being part of an elite group of Indian sportspersons, taking part in the most prestigious world sporting event. This will be my best chance to do well, so I want to ensure I give it my best shot.


Photographs: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Tags: London , India

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