Prakash Padukone biography
An All-England champion, a Commonwealth Games gold-medallist, and multiple-time national champion, Prakash Padukone was undoubtedly the first superstar of Indian badminton.
Known for his graceful movement on a badminton court, Prakash Padukone was considered one of the leading singles players in the world in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Born on 10 June 1955 in Bengaluru, Karnataka, Prakash Padukone grew up at a time when India was not too enthusiastic about badminton. In fact, South India was more obsessed with a sport called ball badminton, which is similar to volleyball.
Prakash Padukone though was introduced to ‘shuttle badminton’ – as they used to call it earlier – by his father Ramesh, who played the sport as a recreational activity with his friends and later went on to become a key part of the first state association for badminton.
A young Prakash soon took a liking to badminton, taking part in several junior state-level tournaments, and first came into national reckoning in 1972 at the age of 17.
Prakash Padukone won the junior national title – as was expected – but also won the national senior championship in the same year. Padukone also reached the final of the national junior doubles, eventually finishing runner-up.
Prakash Padukone received the Arjuna Award in 1972 and he went on to dominate the national championships since, winning an incredible nine titles in a row.
He soon started carving a niche for himself in international badminton. Padukone’s first major international title came when he won the 1978 Commonwealth Games men’s singles gold.
Prakash Padukone was the first Indian badminton player to win a Commonwealth Games gold medal and remained the only male player to do until Parupalli Kashyap emulated him in 2014.
Prakash Padukone endured a tough year in 1979, injuring his foot in a series against Malaysia, causing him to withdraw from the All England Open that year. The following year, Padukone was prepared.
Padukone was in good form coming into the 1980 All England Open, having won the Danish Open and Swedish Open in the weeks prior to the tournament. It also helped him acclimatise to the cold weather in England.
After breezing through the initial rounds, Prakash Padukone faced second-seed Morten Frost, a fellow upcoming young star from Denmark, in the semi-finals. Padukone’s swift movements and clear strokes helped him brush aside Frost and took him to his first All England final.
Up against him was Indonesian Liem Swie King, the pre-tournament title favourite and with good reason. King was the world No. 1 at the time, had won each of the two previous All England titles, and had breezed into the final having given away only 46 points in his four matches.
But Prakash Padukone was ready for the challenge. King, known for his fiery smash and quick movements, was never allowed to use any of his weapons, as the Indian slowed down the pace of the match and played delicate shots to out-think King.
"I would make him move just a fraction of a second late because I was holding back my stroke. If he was expecting a toss, I would play a drop. If he was expecting a drop, I would play a stroke. He couldn't anticipate and stand there and be in an attacking position,” Padukone told ESPN years later.
Prakash Padukone triumphed 15-3, 15-10 to become the first Indian to win the All England and the victory heralded India as a new force to be reckoned with in world badminton.
He continued to break barriers in badminton in the coming years, as he recognised the need to improve himself and moved to Denmark in 1981 to train with the best European players. He also won gold at the 1981 World Cup and was awarded the Padma Shri in 1982.
In 1991, Prakash Padukone officially announced his retirement though he had stopped playing in 1989, and spent more time at home with his daughters Deepika Padukone, now one of the leading actresses in India, and Anisha Padukone.
He subsequently moved into administration and ventured into coaching in 1994, when he set up the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) in Bengaluru.
Now one of the leading centres for badminton training in India, where two-time national champion U Vimal Kumar serves as head coach, PPBA has unearthed many gems including Pullela Gopichand, the current chief coach of India who is credited with revolutionising Indian badminton.
In 2001, Prakash Padukone teamed up with former world billiards champion Geet Sethi to set up the ‘Olympic Gold Quest’, an organisation that scouts for talent in Olympic sports in India and gives them the support needed to become an elite athlete.
From becoming the first badminton superstar of India to now playing an active role in finding the next generation of world beaters, Prakash Padukone’s life has come a full circle.