Want to win Olympic gold: Lakshya Sen

Lakshya Sen in action
Lakshya Sen in action (Source: X)

With HS Prannoy struggling because of health issues, Lakshya Sen has taken up the mantle for Indian badminton in the men’s singles in recent weeks. His displays in Paris and at the All England – he got to the semi-finals in both events – have rekindled hopes that he could cause an upset or heree at the Paris Olympics. With Prakash Padukone and Vimal Kumar in his corner, Lakshya is confident of building on these big strides. In this exclusive chat with Boria Majumdar, RevSportz editor-in-chief, he spoke of his All England disappointment, and his hopes for the Thomas Cup and Olympic glory.

Boria: After a relatively lean period, the French Open and All England. Two semi-final appearances, beating multiple higher-ranked players. Your thoughts?

Lakshya: First of all, thank you, sir, for such a warm welcome! Yes, it was a tough period in the last year and the start of this year – couple of first-round exits, failed to get the game time that I wanted. But all the time, I was looking to get my confidence, rhythm, match alertness back.

Then, in the last two tournaments, many things went right. Some tough matches that I won, it helped me to get back my confidence, helped it to grow and I was playing really well in the All England. In the semi-final, it was kind of a heartbreak as I was expecting a better result for me from the way I was playing throughout the tournament. But, really happy with getting my rhythm back ahead of big tournaments this year.

Boria: Now, the qualification for the Olympics is done. So, thoughts on the Olympics?

Lakshya: In the last year, there was a lot of doubt. I was under a lot of pressure before the Indian Open and was not playing freely on court. Then, I had a discussion with Prakash Sir, that what is your ultimate goal for this year? Is it just that you want to participate in the Olympics, or you want to go ahead and win the gold?

Then, I said that I want to win the gold there, and it is not only about qualification. Then, he said that you have show us that you can win a tournament in this calendar year before qualification. You have to start winning tournaments and do not look for those quarterfinals or semi-finals so that your ranking will be better. Look for winning big tournaments like the All England or India Open and then only you might have a chance to win a medal in Paris. From then onwards, I am only focused on one tournament at a time.     

Want to continue this form going ahead, and Thomas Cup is next. We are the defending champions and whenever we have played any team event together, we have performed very well in last few years. On paper, we might not be favourites against some teams, but I would say that we can beat any team in the world. With the kind of players we have now, we can defend this title.

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Boria: How challenging it was mentally for you when things were not going your way and what was the thought process like?

Lakshya: Every day, I was just trying to improve on and off the court. In the starting part of the qualification, we played a lot of competitions, and that’s why somewhere, I did not get proper time to work on myself. It was tough to play so many tournaments along with travel. That was a bit hectic and then, going into 2-3 months of qualification, we understood that we might not have practiced much in order to play those tournaments. Before that, I was in a good space both physically and mentally. The days I was getting were not enough to go from tournament after tournament. But, when I started doing well in training, things started to fall in the right places.

Boria: Words on Vimal [Kumar] and Prakash [Padukone]?

Lakshya: I have worked with them for the longest time – 12 years in the academy, and they have really helped. Especially Prakash sir. This time round, his presence and intensity were really a motivation for me. Even, when I was down, sir just kept me motivated and really hungry for all the matches. I remember after each match, Prakash Sir would come up and say to me that it’s not over, you have still 2-3 matches to go. Even, when I defeated certain good or top-four opponents, he still said we cannot relax further. We are here to win the tournament.

Lakshya Sen
Lakshya Sen (PC: X)

Boria: Long stressful games, deciders. Was it a little bit physical in terms of playing a decider? Was that an issue and is it something that you want to work on in coming days?  

Lakshya: Yes, considering the opponents that I have played, a few matches I could have pulled off in straight sets. When we came back, I had a chat with the coaches and that will be an area to work on. Winning one match at a time and going all out for the game is all that was needed, and I did what I had to do at that moment.

Boria: You have been fantastic. Seeing you on the Olympic podium is a dream for every Indian. Have you started to visualise?

Lakshya: Yes, definitely. The kind of tournaments that I played, especially that [French Open] being in the Olympic Arena, it will definitely give me a lot of motivation that I have done well there and know the conditions. Will be hoping for the best, and the next three or four months are very crucial for me. The work I am putting in now will help me, and it will be my first [Olympic] experience. So, I am prepared and motivated to do well.  

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