Badminton is a game which requires quick movement, reflexes and agility. It is a game which tests your mental and physical ability. You need to be strong at both if you want to succeed in this sport.
Para – Badminton Player Sukant Kadam has his own story which is inspiring and motivating. He faced an injury at the age of 10, started his badminton career at the age of 18 and later went on to become World No. 2 in just a span of 5 years.
Here is how Sukant explains his life journey to Sportsbeatsindia.
So how did you turn towards Badminton?
When I was doing my Mechanical Engineering, I used to participate in the college events. I was not so good, not so bad at that time. I was not included in the college team that year so took the challenge that next year I will surely be a part of the college team. After one year of decent efforts, I got selected in the class team, then the college team and I also represented the University.
It was around 2012 when I took the game seriously and the main source of Motivation was Girish Gowda who had recently won a Bronze Medal in the 2012 Paralympic Games. That’s when I started to find more and more information about Para – badminton and tournaments related to it.
What exactly is your injury and what caused it? You are a right handed player and you have an injury in the left leg. So how does it affect your leg and does it impact your game?
When I was 10 years old, I was playing cricket in the streets and I faced a knee injury. I was scared that my parents will shout at me so I preferred not to tell them. As I didn’t tell them, it took a long time for the treatment and as a result I had to lose my leg.
I think Badminton is 70% anticipation. So I anticipate the shots and make the necessary movements.
The injury in the left leg only affects when I have to cover the left side of the court. I have a strong right leg which makes it easy for me to lunge and defend the shuttle. As I said I anticipate the shuttle before it reaches my court and thus make the movement.
People think that they can trap me on the back-hand side and win a point. But the thing is I can push my body in the forward direction using my left leg and thus it becomes easy for me to cover the court. Anticipating all this, I have developed my back-hand strokes and they prove to be important.
Please tell us something about your childhood. Did you try your hand at badminton when you were young?
No. Cricket was the only game I was attracted at during my childhood. The main reason was the World Cups which were broadcasted on Televisions. Cricket was extremely famous and the players also had fame.
But after the injury, my parents made sure I don’t get attracted to any sport as it would cause another injury if I started playing it. So till 10th Std I was not attracted to any sport. 11th and 12th went the same way.
How was your Engineering Period? What was your point of view towards Badminton during the 4 stressful and difficult years of life?
I took Badminton seriously and never took the game lightly or never played the game just for entertainment. When exams would commence I completely focused on studies and after the exams the only thing I did was play Badminton. I also hired a coach for some time and used to play with the corporate people who used to practise early in the morning.
Engineering was my choice so I had to complete my degree education in any case.
My coach during my 1st International Tournament, Nikhil Kanetkar told me to complete my degree first and then join the Nikhil Kanetkar Badminton Academy – NKBA.
What was your parents’ reaction when you decided to focus completely on Badminton rather than choosing a corporate job using the Mechanical Engineering Degree?
I had decided to completely focus on Badminton as it was my passion. Many relatives tried to force me to do a job suggesting that Sports is not a long lasting career. The way you did your Degree and also played Badminton, the same way you can play will doing a job.
I told my parents that I will be preparing for the national exam – CAT and parallely play Badminton.
But in my mind I was 100% in Badminton and paid very less attention towards my studies.
Eventually I cleared the CAT exam and I had a call letter from IIM – Shillong. That decision was extremely difficult to take. But I chose Badminton and followed my dream.
I chose Badminton and thus started training with the national team as I got selected and with intense efforts I won a Bronze Medal in the Asian Championships.
It is a known fact that Badminton has its origin in Pune. Pune has a rich Badminton Culture. So how did it help you when you shifted from your home town to Pune?
My native village is Kautholi in Sangali. I shifted to Pune for my engineering degree and I studies in the Avsari College of Engineering which is a government college.
I played an open international tournament and that’s where I met Nikhil Kanetkar.
Pune helped me a lot and the Badminton Culture here is amazing. Motivation and Support is what is important and that is what I received a lot in Pune.
What kind of role did Nikhil Kanetkar Badminton Academy – NKBA plays?
Nikhil Sir and Mayank Gole Sir play an important role in my life as they are my coaches and Mayank Sir plays the role of an emotional anchor. He motivates me a lot and makes sure I never get disappointed over failures.
Responding to my request Nikhil Sir hired me as a full time coach and thus I could meet my daily expenses and didn’t depend on my parents for money.
How did you keep yourself motivated for 8 years after your injury till the day you began your Badminton in the college years?
Look, I didn’t pay that much attention towards sports after the injury as I was kept away from it.
So those years won’t play that much significant role in the development of my mentality and mental strength.
The time when I faced rejection even in my college saying that my movement was slow and I won’t be able to perform, that was the time when I remembered how I was kept away from the sport.
I had the ability but no one provided me the opportunity.
That’s when I motivated myself and decided to prove all of them wrong.
I used to defeat all my college players and that’s when I realized that I can reach another level of success.
For the motivation purpose, I look up to Lee Chong Wei. His attitude of never giving up and working extremely hard makes me pus my limits. He is probably the most hard – working badminton player ever. In the Para Circuit I look upon Pramod Bhagat as a role model. His thoughts, ideas and the way he handles the game situations inspires me a lot.
What were the difficult situations you have faced in your life?
The most difficult moment I faced was during the final exam of my final year. Considering it was the last year and understanding the suggestions of my parents, I had to choose exams over Badminton and as a result I thought I missed the important World Championships. But an injury to a player gave me the chance to at least be a part of the team.
Due to this I wasn’t selected in the National Team and that hit me hard. I felt like giving up but as mentioned Mayank Sir did the job of keeping me motivated and made me realise that this is not the last game.
After your success at the international level, what was the change you noticed in the way your parents and the society approached you?
The way people looked towards me had a drastic change. I was offered a government job after my international medals and that’s where people realised that yes, this person is doing something good and therefore government has offered him a job.
I received a lot of appreciation and people started respecting me a lot better than what they used to do before.
How do the Government and Federation help you? What kind of development you expect in the field of Para – Sports?
In my case I am supported by TOPS – Target Olympic Podium Scheme, which helps me a lot. They provide the necessary funding for tournaments, training camps as well as equipment till the Olympic Games.
Khelo India was a wonderful initiative by the Government for young players. Government offers scholarship to the player who wins and that’s what will definitely help the players.
How is your style of play and how do you tackle the difficult situations?
My strategy is to attack the opponent at the start of the game and put him in the pressure situations. That pressure forces him to make mistakes and the possibility of me winning the match increases.
How is your preparation going on for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
The preparation is in full swing and I am determined to do extremely well in Olympics.
Edelweise and TOPS have taken my responsibility of financial aspects and I cannot disappoint them. They have shown faith in me and they just expect me to play and win a medal for India.
Currently I am playing at the Gopichand Academy and Gopi sir is also guiding me really well. Having a man who has done such a great work in Indian Badminton is an advantage for me.
Recently TOPS gave me a good opportunity for the 1st time to play with all the TOPS athletes under our Head Coach Mr Gaurav Khanna sir and we are hoping such kind of support from them
I want to finish in the top 3 in the qualification tournaments for Olympics. That’s my main aim right now.
Let’s take a rapid fire round for fun! You have to choose only one out of the two options given
1. World Championships or Olympics?
2. Lee Chong Wei or Lin Dan?
Lee Chong Wei
3. Saina Nehwal or Sindhu?
4. Your childhood love Cricket or Current Career Badminton?
5.What would you love to sit back and watch?
Match Between Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan
Wow, what an inspiring story Sukant has had. Each and every one of us should learn how to live life. There are various problems in life but overcoming them and learning from them is important.