Sixteen-year-old top seed Maisnam Meiraba Luwang walked towards the training area after his 21-17, 21-11 win over Rohan Gurbani in the boys’ U-19 singles semifinals of the 28th Smt. Krishna Khaitan Memorial All India Junior Ranking Prize Money Badminton Tournament at Tau Devi Lal Stadium. The youngster was followed by his father, 51-year-old Maisnam Romesh Luwang.
The senior Luwang is a coach with the Manipur Sports Department in Imphal and had competed at the junior and senior level in the ’80s along with the likes of current national chief coach Pullela Gopichand.
His best finish at the nationals was the third-round results. But his son is faring better. Maisnam Meiraba’s win on Saturday paved his way to his fifth junior ranking final this year. He won each of the previous four finals he had competed in.
“My son was three years old when he started playing badminton. He would always be fascinated by the idea of the shuttle crossing the net. Some years later, when he decided to take up the sport seriously, he would travel to the MBA Indoor Stadium in Imphal. I used to train players at the Khumanlampak Stadium. It was only when he won at the district level, that I started training him. In my playing days, I never reached beyond the third round, be it the junior nationals or senior nationals. When I completed my diploma from NIS, Patiala, I told my fellow players that my son will be a better player than me. Seeing him win four titles this year was great,” the proud father said.
After training at Imphal under his father, Maisnam shifted to the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bangalore six years ago. The youngster bagged his first international medal when he won the U-10 title in the Israel junior International in 2013 before becoming the National U-13 champion in sub-junior nationals at Cuttack.
After winning the title in U-15 category in the Swiss Junior Open in 2015, the youngster became the the sub-junior U-15 national champion in 2016, a feat which he repeated in the U-17 category in the junior nationals at Guwahati in 2017. Last year, Maisnam became the U-17 champion in the Khelo India Games apart from winning four titles in the All India U-19 rankings tournaments, a feat which he has matched this year also to climb to the top of U-19 national rankings.
Last year, Maisnam also won the bronze medal in the Asian Junior U-17 Badminton Championships in Myanmar where he lost to eventual champion Yong Jin of Korea. “Initially, I played the sport as a leisure activity. But with my father being the coach and seeing him train players, I wanted to win medals He was very happy when I became the national U-13 champion in Cuttack but it also meant that he made the decision to send me to train at Bangalore. But that has not stopped him from keeping a track of my mistakes too (laughs). Whatever chances I have got to compete at the international level, my aim is to win medals and last year’s bronze medal in the Asian Junior Championships was a special moment for me. Competing at the U-19 ranking tournaments and winning titles means that I can now aim for the senior level and it will be my target,” Maisnam said.
This year, the youngster won the U-19 singles title in the White Night Russia International Open in St Petersburg, apart from claiming a bronze medal in BTY Junior International Challenge in Thailand.
Maisnam also competed in the Asian Junior U-19 Championships in China, where he lost to the eventual winner Kunlavut Vitdsarn of Thailand in the second round.
“His strength has been his fitness and the ability to retrieve the shuttle from tough situations. When he is playing well, it also shows in his defense and that’s the key for him to perform consistently. In the Asian Junior Championships, he scored wins over top seeded Korean and Chinese players in the team event and it shows that he is among one of the best juniors in the world at this moment. He needs to improve on his finishing strokes and net game to have a smooth transitions from junior to senior level and he will improve with more exposure,” shares coach Sagar Chopda of Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy.