Parupalli Kashyap overcame a huge personal loss and major injuries to clinch the biggest title of his life when he beat Derek Wong of Singapore in a blistering three-setter to claim gold at the Commonwealth Games singles final in Glasgow yesterday.
The going has not been smooth for Kashyap. Handpicked by P Gopichand to spearhead the Indian challenge in men's singles on the world circuit, this former national champion rose as high as World No 6 a couple of years back, thereby vindicating Gopichand's faith.
In 2011, while playing the Singapore Open as the country's top shuttler, he received the most unfortunate news of his elder sister's death caused by suicide. He was very close to his sister and it took a long time for him to come to terms with this huge personal loss.
"It was a troublesome time for him. We prayed that he overcome his grief and reclaim his place at the top. He did so and won the Nationals in Srinagar two years ago. He is hardworking, has great concentration and has everything in the game which can land him a big title," Gopichand told me only recently.
Indeed, Kashyap has grabbed a big title. He also has the Indian Grand Prix gold title and is the only Indian men's singles player to reach the quarter-final of the Olympics which he did in the 2012 London Games where he lost to World No 1 Lee Chong Wei.
Kashyap's greatness lies in the fact that he was diagnosed having asthma in 2004 but has been able to overcome the illness with sheer determination. As recent as December 2013, he pulled out of the Korean Open due to a dislocated right shoulder.
Not fully fit
This put him off training for a couple of months and even though he played the Delhi Nationals, he lost out to Kidambi Srikanth while not fully fit. "I started off my badminton career under Arif Sir (SM Arif, the former national coach) as a 11-year-old, and also went to learn at Prakash Padukone Academy in Bangalore for some time, before landing up here with Gopi Sir in Hyderabad.
I owe a lot to him as he has crafted me into what I am today," he said to me once. At the heart of Kashyap's prowess is his quick movement on the court; his forte lies in those lovely net dribbles which he does with great confidence.
It's from these dribbles that he gets those mid-court openings from where the jumps and smashes come into play. In the finals at Glasgow, Wong made the mistake of bringing Kashyap to the net far too often when baseline flicks would have been better to keep the Indian at bay.
Things could have got tough for Kashyap, but then he has proved time and again that he's a classic example of the adage, 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going.'
The writer is a former India badminton player