Lakshya Sen Clinches Gold at Asia Junior Badminton Championship
Rising shuttler Lakshya Sen stunned reigning world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand in straight games to become only the third Indian player to clinch a gold medal at the Asia Junior Championships in Jakarta on Sunday.
The sixth seeded Indian from Uttarakhand, who had won a bronze medal in the last edition of the competition, notched up 21-19, 21-18 upset win over Vitidsarn in the summit clash that lasted for 46 minutes.
Late Gautam Thakkar (1965) and Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu (2012) had won the prestigious title earlier. Sindhu had won a bronze as well in 2011, while Sameer Verma won a silver and bronze in 2011 and 2012 and the pair Pranav Chopra/Prajkta Sawant bagged a bronze in 2009.
After the win win on Sunday, Badminton Association of India (BAI) has announced a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh for Lakshya, who has been sensational in the tournament as he stunned second seed Chinese Li Shifeng, fourth seed Indonesian Ikhsan Leonardo Imanuel Rumbay in the semi-finals and top seed Vitidsarn in the final.
"It was very hectic. In fact, ahead of the tournament I had to tweak my training a bit as I had suffered a shin split. During the tournament also I had to take pills sometimes to curb the pain," he said.
"Overall, it was a good tournament. I have played all these top player before, so I knew there game." India's junior national coach Sanjay Mishra also showered praise on Lakshya.
Lakshya was cautious in his approach and started trailing by a few points in the first game before he caught up at 9-9 and then used his customary drop shots and half-court smashes to go ahead 13-11. He didn't look back there after despite his rival coming close to him at 16-15.
In the second game, Lakshya led with a slender margin but managed to maintain a two-point lead almost all the time.
However, midway through Kunlavut inched closer to his opponent and was trailing by a mere single point at 10-11.
Yet, there was no real threat to the six-seeded Indian who upped the ante and forced Kunlavut into errors at the net, gaining a four-point lead.
Not to be outdone, the Indonesian reduced the margin but it was too late for him to stage a real recovery.
An elated BAI president Himanta Biswa Sarma lauded Lakshya's historic feat, saying: “Lakshya has done the country proud. We have been investing on youngsters and we are happy seeing the dividends.”
Ajay K. Singhania, BAI General Secretary, also congratulated the shuttler's efforts. “It was a great occasion for all of BAI family and officials to celebrate. Winning a medal in Asia is always good, but winning gold is even better. We are really proud of the teenager,” said Singhania.