Rohtak in Haryana is known more for physical, contact sports like wrestling, hockey, athletics and volleyball — sports in which the district has done very well over the years.
However, a budding shuttler is hoping to put badminton in the list of medals for Haryana at the Khelo India Youth Games set to start here in a few days.
Unnati Hooda, who recently burst onto the badminton horizon, has given the city a different star with her smashes, drop shots, crisp returns, and slick netplay.
Come June 3, this Class X pass out from DBG Senior Secondary Public School, Rohtak will be one of the names to watch out for at the Khelo India Youth Games. She has set her eyes on the gold already.
Unnati, just 14, surprised everyone with her maturity and skills to become the youngest Indian badminton player to win a BWF Super 100 crown at the Odisha Open earlier this year. The Odisha Open was Unnati’s second international event and she had made it to the final of the Infosys International Challenge in 2020.
Unnati learned the game at the Chhotu Ram Stadium in Rohtak, famous for producing top wrestlers including Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik.
But her father Upkar was always passionate about badminton and wanted his daughter to take up the sport, which she did and made him proud.
“It was beyond my expectations. She is good in both sports and studies, and I wanted her to excel in badminton,” Upkar, who quit his teaching job to concentrate on his daughter’s career in badminton, was quoted as saying by the organisers of the Khelo India Youth Games on Saturday.
She was a member of the women’s team for Uber Cup 2022 at Bangkok, which incidentally was her first trip abroad as part of the India team. In the last six months, Unnati has lifted her standard through sheer hard work and was excited to rub shoulders with her idol PV Sindhu.
“It was exciting playing alongside Sindhu, something every budding player dreams of,” Unnati gushed. “I follow all her (Sindhu) matches. I like her determination and her discipline. And to win two Olympic medals is no ordinary feat,” she added.
“We are happy to have her (Unnati) for the Youth Games, I am sure she will be an inspiration for everyone out there,” said the badminton games manager Sunita Singh of KIYG, commenting on Unnati’s participation at these games.