Prakash Padukone: From training in wedding halls to an All England champion

The former shuttler played badminton as recreation with his father, but his natural abilities enabled him to forge a successful professional career.

When Prakash Padukone won the All England in 1980, it heralded a new era for Indian badminton.

The win at the prestigious championships was part of a memorable period for the Indian badminton star, following his gold at the Commonwealth Games in 1978 and the national titles in India.

However, when he began playing with his father as a seven-year-old, in 1962, not many people knew about the shuttle sport.

“There was another sport called ball badminton which was very popular in the south. It was an outdoor sport played with a yellow ball with five players on each side. So, you had to specifically say it was shuttle badminton,” Padukone revealed in a video chat with Scroll.in.

His father Ramesh was one of the few people who played badminton and was a part of the first state association for the sport. It was how Prakash Padukone discovered badminton and he built his skills by practising with state players at a wedding hall.

“My father took me and my friends to a nearby club, which was basically a marriage hall, after finishing work in the evening,” explained the former Indian badminton player.

“Some of the other state players were playing in the same hall so I just picked up watching the game. At that time, I had absolutely no idea that I would go on to play. It was more for the love of it.

“There were no goals or ambitions, there were no aims,” he added. “Just enjoy the sport.”

Take life as it comes

But soon the young Prakash Padukone began playing in junior state-level tournaments and the big leap to pursue a professional career came when he won both junior and senior national titles at 17.

“Within a span of one week, I won both the men's singles and boys' singles and I was runner up in the boys' doubles. That's where the journey began,” Padukone stated.

The Indian badminton star went on to win the national championships for nine years in a row and also opened up the European avenues for Indian shuttlers when he made the historic move to play for a club in Denmark in 1981 following his All England title win.

“You have to take life as it comes,” he said. “In my career, in my life, I always think very positively. I remember my father told me when I was very young that this is all you have. The wedding hall or whatever. 

“So focus on things which are under your control,” he insisted.

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