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Meet Prajwal Sonawane, the Nashik boy making waves in badminton

Nine-year-old used to pick up shuttlecocks at Nashik's Shiv Satya Krida Mandal as a three-year-old. Last week, he was crowned the U-11 West Zone singles champion in the PNB Metlife badminton tournament held in Mumbai

From picking up shuttlecocks to ruling the badminton court in just a few years — this is the remarkable journey of nine-year-old Prajwal Sonawane.

Prajwal Sonawane at his home with family members
Prajwal Sonawane at his home with family members 

Prajwal, who hails from Nashik, was recently crowned the U-11 West Zone singles champion in the PNB Metlife badminton tournament held in Mumbai.

As a toddler, Prajwal grew up in a 10x10 feet room adjacent to Nashik's Shiv Satya Krida Mandal watching the likes of doubles player Pradnya Gadre and current U-17 girls singles national champion Vaidehi Choudhari.

While father Sanjay is a driver, his mother Anita helps with the maintenance of the two wooden badminton courts at the Shiv Satya Krida Mandal, besides taking up the odd tailoring work to sustain the family.

Prajwal during a training session at the badminton courts of Nashik’s Shiv Satya Krida Mandal. Pic/Nitin Mujumdar
Prajwal during a training session at the badminton courts of Nashik’s Shiv Satya Krida Mandal. Pic/Nitin Mujumdar 

It was due to Anita's job at the badminton arena that Prajwal was introduced to the sport before he was a three-year-old and his coach Makarand Deo, who trains young shuttlers there.

Deo, a veteran badminton coach, who has shaped many national shuttlers like Gadre, noticed Prajwal, who back then used to pick up shuttlecocks. A brief session with Prajwal was enough for Deo to notice a spark in the kid.

"Prajwal was introduced to badminton when he was barely two and half years old," recounted Deo.

Mallakhamb training
"I used to hang a shuttle at a height suitable for Prajwal to hit with his racquet. I think his eyesight got used to focussing on the shuttle because of this practice at a very tender age. His natural action and speed also improved.

Since the age of four, he trained in gymnastics; mallakhamb too. It helped him strengthen his muscles and his reflexes got better. Even now, he devotes nearly one and a half hours, five days of a week for gymnastics and mallakhamb," Deo added.

While the Class IV student found an able coach in Deo, funding proved to be a sticky point considering the Sonawanes were struggling to make ends meet. Deo and a few well-wishers decided to pitch in. Prajwal won his first district level title in February last year.

Later that year, he won his first ever U-10 state title in Nashik and hasn't looked back since. His crowning glory though was last week's PNB Metlife trophy event where he overcame 138 players to be crowned champion.

Such was Prajwal's dominance that he did not lose a single game in the tournament en route to clinching the prize money of Rs 8,000 in the U-11 category. The nine-year-old also reached the pre-quarter-finals in the U-13 boys category.

"Prajwal has very bright future. I have not seen a boy of his calibre in recent times," Mumbai's renowned badminton coach Mangirish Palekar said about Prajwal.

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