The two were barely taller than the badminton racquets they wielded when they started out in the sport not too long ago. In a few days time,Simran Singhi and Rahul Vyas will be headed to Prakash Padukone’s academy in Bangalore for a short brush with excellence in training and technique,after they won a recent shuttle’s talent hunt. They go there with dreamy eyes about a cereer in badminton,tempered by the starkest reality checks seen in a pair of 11-year-olds. “Saina Nehwal and P Kashyap are stars today because they have worked extremely hard. I want to be hard-working like them,” Vyas says,though he can happily launch into nuanced talk of drops and tosses of a Korea vs China men’s singles match he watched on TV,and how the Chinese pulled things back from 20-17 down.
Vyas studies at John Cannon and Cathedral School,trains at CCI and though not more than 4 feet 6 inches,lists out a dozen boxes to tick that he wants to cramp into his training in Bangalore. “I want to learn new techniques,perfect my strokes,stop silly mistakes,learn when to finish a point,get good at smashing so they don’t go into the net,learn to disguise my drops,” he says in one straight breath.
Simran,who studies at Ryan International and trains under Uday Pawar,is nerveless when attacking,but wants to summarily learn from all the other mistakes she makes and get into the habit of moving faster on court. She followed cousin Shlok Ramachandran – a promising junior from Mumbai – onto the badminton court. But as of now,it’s her two lunging steps to big bro’s giant single stride,so she also prays each night that she becomes tall. “I want to become tall like him – he’s 6’2″. I also like his defense,” she says.
Her brother has taken a small break from squash for his Class 10 boards. Simran,who doesn’t mind Mathematics,pledges to never allow studies to come in the way of her sport.
She knows she’s not quite the best in the country currently in her age-group – there’s Kalpita Sawant – so she lines up at No 5 in India. Her day starts at 5 am,for 15 rounds and she devotes 3 hours a day to shadow practice,sprints and strokes. Prakash Padukone had insisted that Simran held a bright future because she was physically strong and that has been down to all the lifting,band training and workouts around exercise cones that Pawar has put her through these last few years. Nehwal’s base fitness was built in the age-bracket of 9-15 and Simran’s hoping her hard work will serve her well in the coming years.
Vyas,however,is known to be technically sound,and spends all his lunch breaks at school finishing his home-work so academics don’t eat into his training time. There’s much to learn,as he reels off – accuracy,covering the entire court,keeping calm. At the semis for the Tata Shuttles,Rahul ran into an a pugnacious Aditya Desai and got all nervous at 20-all in the second. “I’d played a strong first set,but in the second I got nervous. I then told myself that I couldn’t panic and then played safe strokes and didn’t go for the lines.” Next time,he wants to play it cooler.
His Mumbai coaches have put him through abdomen strengthening exercises for core stability and the small framed lad is doing his best to add physical might to his technical dependability. He tried his hand – foot rather – at soccer,but didn’t quite last the rigours. “It didn’t work out too well,” he says.
Rahul Vyas also met Saina Nehwal at a junior’s clinic and come away impressed. “I don’t think she’ll remember me though,” he adds.