Star Spanish badminton player and Olympic champion Carolina Marin is “my role-model” and her “fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude inspire me to give my best”, says shuttler Akanshi Baliyan, who has represented India in multiple tournaments.

The 24-year old Akanshi, who stays and does her training in Delhi, has represented India in Asia Junior Sports Exchange Games at Tokyo in 2010, 2012 and also participated in Syed Modi International Badminton Championships at Lucknow in 2016.

“Carolina Marin is a fighter. No matter what the situation is, her fighting spirit remains the same. We often lose hope in tough situations but she backs her game and plays with the confidence to win. Her ‘never say die’ attitude inspires me to give my best whenever I step on to a badminton court,” Akanshi told IANS on the sidelines of Red Bull Shuttle Up-women’s doubles tournament.

The Delhi qualifier of the event, which took place in the national capital during the weekend, saw more than 35 teams participating and the National champions of the tournament will get the opportunity to play against Ashwini Ponnappa and her doubles partner.

Star Indian shuttlers PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal have inspired thousands of girls in India to choose badminton as a sport.

Taking about the learning from the two stalwarts of Indian badminton, Baliyan said, “Both Saina and Sindhu have faced many ups and downs in their respective careers. They have lost on many occasions but their ability to make a roaring comeback makes them special and one can learn that quality from them.”

In the last one decade or so, India’s glory at the Olympics in badminton had been fetched by only Saina and Sindhu. While it was Nehwal who won bronze in the 2012 London Olympics, it was reigning World champion PV Sindhu who became the first Indian woman to win two medals at the Olympics, winning a silver in Rio and a bronze in Tokyo.

Apart from the duo, the next crop of Indian players has disappointed with their performance.

Though she hasn’t experienced it till now but Akanshi feels nepotism in selection and trials could be one of the reasons for India’s underwhelming performance at the highest level.

“I cannot completely say that there is no nepotism in sports especially badminton but talking for myself, I have been fortunate that I did not experience or went through it till now. However, I have heard how unfair trials and selections are done for tournaments,” she said.

The young shuttler, who is also a certified nutritionist, doesn’t believe in setting long-term goals and trusts her process.

“I don’t think much about long-term goals, instead trust my process of regular hard work. At present, I am focusing on my training and fitness and will see what comes next,” said Akanshi .

Meanwhile, Akanshi’s doubles partner, Namita Pathania, adores star Thai player Ratchanok Intanon.

The 22-year old Namita, who also does her training in Delhi, is a 2018 state champion and 2019 All India University winner.

“I love Ratchanok’s light footwork on-court. The way, she maintains her cool and composure even in tough situations is awe-inspiring. I try to learn from her and implement it in my game, whenever I play any match,” said Namita.

Though Namita is a young badminton player, she has learnt the art of making comebacks from crunch situations.

“Self-belief matters a lot in tough situations. We work on our mental aspect too and when it comes to games, we try to focus on one point at a time. Focusing on shorter goals during games eases the pressure and gives us self-confidence to make a comeback,” said Namita while talking about her strengths.

Both Akanshi and Namita have done their graduations and they always try to manage their time between studies and tournaments. The duo has full support of their parents and want to bring laurels for India in future.

–IANS

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