An Olympic medal… finally!


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At Wembley, following Saina’s match

This is Indian badminton’s biggest match. Ever. If Saina can win this…

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Heading to the semis!

Sajna plays the Olympic semifinals in about an hour…. rushing to catch the match…

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At the Olympics….

Hi everybody,
I’m at the Olympics, covering the event for Badminton World Federation (BWF) and Sportskeeda. You can follow my stories at: and Other updates on
Will try to update this blog… so keep coming🙂

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The intersection of memories… and a stolen bag

Copenhagen Airport evokes powerful memories. It’s an intersection, as all airports are, an intersection of incoming and outgoing flights and memories. Just last year, same time, I was at the Starbucks cafe, chatting with Jens, with the Indonesian team (several Olympic and world champions: Taufik, Kido, Setiawan, etc) sitting around playing cards, when someone stole my bag. All my clothes and all the gifts I’d received. The Indonesians were startled, and even Taufik, usually sage-like in his indifference, looked troubled.
Taufik at Starbucks Cafe, Cph Airport, Oct 2010
It’s a year now. It feels like yesterday. I’m at the airport, headed again for Dubai, from where I’ll catch a flight to Bangalore. I look around… it feels the same. Hendra Setiawan, the Olympic champion, is alongside — he was on the same bus from Odense to the airport. ‘Remember me?’ I ask, and he smiles. He remembers. I recall that long chat with Markis Kido, his partner, who told me he loved Bollywood films and Shah Rukh Khan. “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai,” Kido told me, unsure what any of those words meant.
October 2010 morphs into the October of 2011. Jens is here again. He’s a sweet old man, but not as old as you might think, for he still bikes in the mountains. The last time, when I lost my luggage, he drove me into Copenhagen and checked me into a hotel. The next morning, Lars, our media guide at the tournament, came to visit me and secretly paid the hotel bill. I offered to repay him this time but he wouldn’t hear of it.
Taufik is the same off-court as he is on court. He reacts to everything with slightly raised eyebrows, as if he is mildly surprised but doesn’t care. He doesn’t speak much, even to teammates, but that day he was playing cards with the rest of them. Copenhagen airport was packed. Barcelona were flying in to play FC Copenhagen, and there were hundreds of fans sporting Barca attire. They were all dying to catch a glimpse of Messi.
I wondered at the difference then between badminton and football. Here was a living legend, Taufik Hidayat, sublime in his skills, an Olympic, world and Asian Games champion, sitting in plain sight, in Denmark, and yet nobody recognised him. Messi, in any case, escaped with the rest of the team without coming out of the departure gates. I think a bus picked them up directly from the flight.
That was October 2010. I remember the hotel, the seedy streets around it, the cold, the blanketed strangers shuffling in the shadows, and some peep shows around. It was a scene straight out of a dark graphic novel, no humour at all.

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Jr ABC: Zulkiffli outclasses Sameer

Lucknow (The Hindu): Sameer Verma had to settle for the silver medal as he lost to the superior second-seeded Malaysian Zulkiffli Zulfadli in the boys’ singles final of the Badminton Asia youth under-19 championships at the U.P. Badminton Academy courts, Gomti Nagar, here on Saturday.

Verma, who had won loads of appreciation for his excellent performance in the semifinals, could not handle the pressure of playing in a big final in front of the loudly cheering home crowd.

Besides, Zulkiffli’s attacking intent took the top-ranked Indian junior by surprise. The Malaysian used his smashes and placement with utmost effectiveness to outshine Verma, who made the matter worse with some silly mistakes at the net.

Close affair

Still, major part of the first game was a neck-and-neck affair and was nicely poised at 14-15 at one stage.

Verma could not hold his nerve and made several unforced errors, five to be precise, to help the Malaysian take one game lead.

Zulkiffli was successful in carrying forward the momentum in his favour and maintained his accuracy — be it a shot loaded with power or a delicate touch closer to the net.

In the second game, Verma tried to stage a comeback by engaging Zulkiffli in some impressive rallies.

However, the Indian did not succeed as his rival moved ahead with a six-point lead.

Since Verma had conceded so much ground to his opponent, he could not make up the gap even though he saw the Malaysian tiring fast.

Zulkiffli fell down on the court and was in tears after scoring the match point.

Verma aptly analysed his performance.

“He (Zulkiffli) was very attacking from the beginning. So, I became defensive and paid the price,” said Verma.

Brighter side

However, the 17-year-old Indian looked at the brighter side of the championship. “I reached the final and it is big thing for me,” he said.

P. Gopi Chand, the mentor and coach of Verma, was disheartened that his ward could not play his natural game. “He made a lot of mistakes at the net,” said Gopi Chand.

At the same time, the coach counted on the positives and said it was a good sign that the Indian players had done well in a championship of this level.

Indonesia’s glory

In the individual events, Indonesian players cornered glory for their country by claiming two gold medals (in mixed doubles and girls’ doubles).

China, Malaysia and Chinese Taipei bagged one gold each.

Talented home shuttler P.V. Sindhu was eligible for a bronze medal for making the girls’ singles semifinals.

The results (Finals, Indians unless specified):

Boys’ singles:(2) Zulfadli Zulkiffli (Mas) bt Sameer Verma 21-15, 21-17.

Boys’s doubles:(4) Yu Lin Chia-Jui Huang Po (Tpe) bt Yao Lu Ching-En Huang Chu (Tpe) 21-14, 21-13.

Girls’ singles:Yu Sun (Chn) bt Yaying Shen (Chn) 21-8, 21-13.

Girls’ doubles:Rizki Andini Suci-Rosalia N. Tiara (INA) bt (4) Kuan Mei Chow-Yean Lee Meng (Mas) 21-18, 16-21, 21-12.

Mixed doubles:Apri N. Lukhi-Ririn Amelia (INA) bt Tiyani Pei-Dongni Ou (Chn) 15-21, 21-16, 25-23.


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Sameer powers into Asian Jr final

Dev S Sukumar. Bangalore

Sameer Verma became only the second Indian ever in the final of the Badminton Asia Youth Under-19 Championships, defeating Liu Kai of China at the UP Badminton Academy hall at Lucknow on Friday. However, compatriot PV Sindhu fell in the semis, to Sun Yu, also of China.
Sameer’s entry into the final gives him the opportunity to become only the second Indian to win the title – earlier known as the Junior ABC (Asian Badminton Confederation) after Gautam Thakkar in 1976. Sameer will take on Malaysian second seed Zulfikli Zulfadli in the title round.
Sameer’s run was astounding, as he beat an Indonesian and two Chinese on his way to the final. Even coach Gopichand was impressed. “Before the tournament started, I thought he could reach the quarterfinals,” he told DNA. “But the way he has been playing, I believed he had a chance today. He’s been beating some good players, not just Chinese, but also Indonesians and Malaysians.”
The first game was a close affair, and both players remained apace until Sameer annexed the last two points. The second too was close, but after 13-all, Liu Kai suddenly ran away with five straight points.
The loss of the second game made absolutely no impression on Verma, for he shot off to a 13-2 and 15-9 lead before wrapping up the match.
“He’s able to keep the shuttle low, and he’s got a lot of variations on his grip,” said Gopi. “He’s a little similar to his brother (Sourabh); both of them have great self-belief. I’m happy with the performance of the whole team. Even K Srikanth has been very good, and I’m very happy with the doubles too. Earlier, we weren’t so good in all the disciplines, but now we have around eight players who are a good bet for the future.”
Earlier, PV Sindhu, also Gopi’s trainee like Sameer, started off well against Sun Yu. She took the first game at 21-13, but her challenge fell away after the early stages of the second game.
Results (Semifinals): MS: Sameer Verma bt Liu Kai (Chn) 21-19 15-21 21-9; 2-Zulkiffli Zulfadli (Mas) bt Momota Kento (Jpn) 21-18 21-19

WS: Sun Yu (Chn) bt 4-PV Sindhu 13-21 21-12 21-10; Shen Yaying (Chn) bt Hui Xirui (Chn) 23-21 21-17

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