Badminton is one sport where India has excelled in the past few years. The exploits of PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth have followed the giant-killing acts of Pullela Gopichand and Prakash Padukone. However, do we have any players beyond the current crop? We’ll get to know soon as the next generation of Indian shuttlers sweats it out at the upcoming Li-Ning BWF World Junior Championships at Markham, Canada. From November 12, the players will gear up to fight in the individual competitions for the Eye-Level Cups. Here we take a look at some names that may shine at the event.
Currently ranked number four in the BWF world junior men’s singles rankings, Lakshya is India’s biggest medal hope. He has been in the pink of form this year. He stunned favourite and junior world number one Kunlavut Vitidsarn to win the men’s singles in the Asian Junior Championships in Jakarta. A silver medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires followed. In the same tournament, Lakshya played a vital role in India clinching the Mixed Team title. The 17-year-old shuttler is a prodigal talent, and many consider him the next ‘Prakash Padukone’. Watch out for this champion!
Kiran is the younger son of former international badminton player and Arjuna Awardee, George Thomas. He first drew people’s attention in 2016 when he stormed into the finals of the under-17 boys’ singles category at the Asia Youth Championships held in Indonesia. Kiran consistently defeated higher-ranked players in that tournament. Since then, this Kerala lad has gone off the radar a wee bit. Markham may well see him reach the dizzy heights of 2016.
Not much is known about this lad from Dhar, Madhya Pradesh as he’s yet to be tested at the big stage. However, the 16-year-old played a promising game at the selection trials earlier this year. This was after upsetting the more experienced Kiran George in a tense contest at the Yonex Sunrise All-India Junior (under-19) ranking tournament. A talented youngster, Priyanshu is one to watch out for. Son of a photocopy-shop owner, a win at Markham could perhaps see his photographs splashed across the country!
This Nagpur shuttler took a big leap of 123 spots in the BWF world junior badminton rankings earlier this year. Her rank jumped from 207 to 84 courtesy a brilliant show at the Yonex Sunrise India Junior International Grand Prix tournament. Malvika was seen in great form as she went past higher-ranked players in the tournament. Experts predict her to be in the top-10 in the coming years. This 17-year-old has the potential to create history at Markham
Gayatri is the older child of former badminton star and current coach of the national badminton team, Pullela Gopichand. The 15-year-old has seen her fair share of controversies and has been accused of receiving undue favours. However, she has ignored these accusations and focussed on her game instead. One thing is sure though! Gayatri has inherited her father’s genes and shown early promise of emulating his exploits. Markham provides her yet another opportunity to silence critics