Q: I’m very grateful and super excited to have a heart-to-heart conversation with you.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here at LMOIS in Chennai, where I’m coming for the first time to inaugurate this new badminton facility that is named after me. I hope that those youngsters you take up badminton will come here to practice and train hard, and in future be more successful.
Q: You have ignited so many lives by being who you are, and you have inspired so many girls to take up sports and dream of reaching the same heights. This is an encouragement and support to them all.
Thank you so much. It’s nice to be told that, but it’s not just my hard work; it’s a lot of people’s hard work who have supported me. My parents have been very supportive, and my coach, and I’m thankful to them. Parents’ support is much needed by anyone who gets into sports; it’s not just a few months of hard work, but years of hard work, and success is not immediate. But with hard work you will definitely get there. Not only in sports, but in other things like studies, ups and downs are always there. Some might find success early and some find it late, but there’s a process and it will take time. You have to be patient and you have to believe in yourself.
Q: So, tell us a little about your childhood and upbringing.
I started playing badminton at the age of eight-and-a-half, just for fun, and when I started I never thought I’d become an Olympic medalist or a World Champion. My parents are volleyball players and they always supported me with whatever sport I wanted to do. Step by step, I got better. My mom and dad guided me, because they knew how it was coming from a sports background and the experiences they had faced. Even now, whenever I play and make a few mistakes here and there, they tell me, “You need to do this,” or “You need to do that.” That helped me in improving my game and I’m very thankful to them.
Q: What were the values in your family? Are there any qualities that you are grateful for?
As I said, hard work is one of the most important things, because you won’t achieve success so easily. You have to keep working hard. Also, whenever I would lose – you know there are always ups and downs – I learnt never to think it’s over, there’s always a next time. When I lost, obviously I would feel sad, but my parents would say, “There’s always a next time.”
Q: So how do you cope with failure in an individual sport where you’re not part of a team?
It’s not only in individual sports, but also in team sports, every player feels sad or bad whenever they lose a match or come up with failure. But failure doesn’t mean it’s over, and you learn a lot from your loss. The next time you face that same opponent, you won’t make the same mistakes again. It’s not that you shouldn’t lose, that you always have to win, because that can’t happen. So, you have to be strong and you have to come back stronger to face the next challenge.
Q.: And how do you cope with winning?
Winning is always a very positive thing. You feel happy, you are motivated, and it’s important that you stay grounded and be aware that you won’t keep winning every time. You can’t become overconfident because that will lead to something else. You can be happy with your win, and the next time you face the same opponent you have to give 100% to the game. In badminton there are a lot of strategies, and every time you play the game changes. So you have to be mentally and physically strong.
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