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Sindhu can strike gold in Tokyo, says badminton prodigy and Apeejay alumna Kashish Panwar

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With barely a few days to go for the Tokyo Olympics, young badminton star Kashish Panwar, an alumna of Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park, is excited.  These are the Olympics in which PV Sindhu, India’s badminton icon, is expected to do one better than her silver medal showing at Rio, 2016.

Panwar, who has made her parents and alma mater proud by representing Delhi in her chosen sport at the national level, says Sindhu is one of the frontrunners to bag an Olympic medal this year. “In the absence of former world number one Carolina Marin, who won the gold in the women’s singles category in Rio, Sindhu has a very strong chance of winning a gold medal this year.”

Sindhu isn’t the only badminton player who can make India proud on the podium in Tokyo, the dynamic duo of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy is in prime form and is sparking great expectations. “They have won eight BWF titles together, and are being trained by Mathias Boe, a former world number one in men’s doubles. I feel they can create history in Tokyo,” she predicts.

Panwar is a trailblazer in more ways than one. She was among the first sporting stars in Apeejay institutions to get training in Hyderabad under legendary coach Pullela Gopichand, the man behind the rise of such iconic badminton stars as Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth, among many others. “Both my parents and the school have been great pillars of support. My parents (her father is the India head of an IT company and her mother is a homemaker) as well as the school have been very supportive. Apart from my principal Ritu Mehta ma’am, I also got tremendous help from our physical education teacher, Ms Samreen Khan. When I went to the academy in 2019, the school pitched in with special classes for me since I could not attend regular classes,” says Panwar.

Training under Gopichand was never going to be easy, she knew. Initially, Panwar took time adjusting to the strenuous training regime. “When I was in Delhi I was trained by Vikas Sharma Sir, the former coach of Saina Nehwal and used to train for 3-4 hours every day. But in Hyderabad, there were three sessions of training during the morning, afternoon and evening and at least 9-10 hours of tough practice. The diet regime was strict and we worked with Gopi Sir and international coaches from Malaysia and Indonesia who employed modern equipment and machinery for our training,” recalls Panwar.  

Panwar, as expected, values the letter that she received from the Sports Authority of India certifying that she has trained with Gopichand. But there is another badminton memento that she cherishes even more: a T-shirt gifted by Carolina Marin, she tells us with a smile. “She was participating in a practice session at Siri Fort in Delhi close to my residence during the Indian Open. I got an opportunity to play with her for a few minutes and after her routine was over, she posed for a picture with me and even gifted me her T-shirt,” she says with palpable excitement.

Although her heart beats for India, Panwar says Marin will remain her role model. “She is my idol because she never says die. Even if she has lost the first game, she claws back in the subsequent games like a tigress. Carolina’s combative spirit inspires me,” signs off Panwar.  

“Even if she has lost the first game, Carolina Marin claws back in the subsequent games like a tigress. Carolina’s combative spirit inspires me.”

-Kashish Panwar, badminton star

Aasheesh Sharma is a seasoned journalist with an experience of more than 25 years spread over newspapers, news agencies, magazines and television. He has worked in leadership positions in media groups such as Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, NDTV, UNI and IANS. He is a published author and his essay on the longest train journey in India was included in an anthology of writings on the railways, brought out by Rupa Publications. As the Editor of Apeejay Newsroom, he is responsible for coverage of the latest news and developments in the Apeejay institutions. He can be reached at [email protected]

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