‘I had gone to Birmingham with no expectations’

I had gone into the Sydney Olympics in 2000 with thorough planning and lost,which was a crushing feeling. So,I was very,very determined that I will never go into any tournament with planning.

Written by Shivani Naik | Published:March 3, 2009 2:17 am

I had gone into the Sydney Olympics in 2000 with thorough planning and lost,which was a crushing feeling. So,I was very,very determined that I will never go into any tournament with planning. I headed to Birmingham with no expectations whatsoever. I’d been training at SAI,Bangalore with a bunch of juniors. It was sheer hard work,and an unbelievable physical workload. I decided along with my coaches Ganguly Prasad and Leroy D’Sa that we would take it one match at a time at the All England. Playing the semis and finals of the event itself was a big thing,but if I’d stopped there it wouldn’t have counted for much now.

Biggest match

The biggest match of the All England would be the semi-final against top-seed Peter Gade,then No 1. I’d never beaten him before and it invariably turned out to be the toughest.

We wrestled with four match points before I won. I’d never played a final of that stature either,so it was another big match,but I’d planned well for Chen Hong and knew I needed to tire him out. The predominant — and first — emotion after winning the title was that of relief,since it had been such a physical and mental grind. It was torture — with my body aching in various places. So just after the title,I felt relieved and relaxed.

Throughout the tournament I stuck to a routine,and I’m quite impressed by how I managed it everyday. I’d have breakfast at the same time,order the same food at the same restaurant,and listen to the same music.

Crucial details

Some detailing goes into every tournament. And it’ll help when I go there as coach now,because you know what exactly to think and what not to,and know just the mistakes you shouldn’t make. I knew it was big. But it looks bigger when I look at it now. My career would look very different without the All England title.

I also remember the things I didn’t do — I didn’t read newspapers,didn’t talk to friends,or take calls. In fact,after winning the title,I spoke to my mom after 6 hours,which was 1 a.m London time. Players are different now — and they smartly manage everything even while fiddling with their cell-phones. But they know the bottomline — that the perspective and focus is always on the game. It’s important you have role models,who’ve achieved the highest that there is to achieve. It just makes your goals achievable,and aspirations believable. I was lucky I had Prakash sir to look up to,and something big to aim at.

(As told to Shivani Naik)

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