INTERVIEW: After bronze at maiden BWF World Championships, Lakshya Sen confident about bigger achievements in 2022
Deemed as one of India's brightest talents in the badminton circuit, Lakshya Sen stood above expectations when he returned to the country with a bronze medal at the BWF World Championships in Huelva, Spain.
Sen started his campaign with a fighting win over Japan's Kenta Nishimoto and defeated two more players before setting up a semi-final date against former world no 1 Kidambi Srikanth. The all-Indian semi-final clash saw an epic duel between the two as the match lasted for three games before 28-year-old Srikanth dished Sen out of the competition. The final scores read 17-21, 21-14, and 21-17.
This was Sen's maiden venture at the world championships and sharing the mantra behind his outstanding campaign, the 20-year-old said it was the lack of pressure that helped him excel at the tournament.
“I had no pressure from the beginning, which really helped me to play well and win a medal in my first world championship,” said Sen in a telephonic interview with the Hindustan Times.
Sen has been setting up benchmarks right from a young age. At 20, he became the youngest Indian male shuttler to win a medal at the world championships. Apart from this, the shuttler had clinched gold at the Asian Junior Championships held in Indonesia in 2018, overcoming the then reigning champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand. In the same year, Sen won a silver medal at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.
The 20-year-old, who hails from Almora, Uttarakhand, said following his achievement in Spain he got a rousing welcome at the Prakash Padukone Academy in Bangalore, where he trains, before adding that he will return to business after taking a short break of 4-5 days.
Speaking on the upcoming year, which will see a host of events being played, Sen said his "main target" is to win gold at the Asian and Commonwealth Games.
“The goal from here is to play in all the big events next year, starting from the India Open. I need to do well in that and hopefully go bigger at the Commonwealth and Asian Games next year,” said Sen.
“Right now I'm trying to recover my body from all the previous tournaments I played and work on my fitness. We have the India Open in 20 days, looking forward to playing in that. After that, I have some 4-5 weeks and I plan to do a lot of training during that time. So improving myself physically will be one of the focus,” he added.
The 20-year-old also credited his training in UAE with Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen and current world champion Loh Kean Yew for his success, an experience he would look forward to do again. He said the training helped him get the much-needed match practice as several tournaments were canceled due to the pandemic.
“I went to train in Dubai for two weeks, which was a good sparring moment to play against players who are already in the circuit. It gives you match practice, the quickness of a match because I feel that was lacking until last year because we didn't play many tournaments due to the pandemic and I look forward to doing that again,” he said.
Sharing his views on Loh Kean Yew's style of play, Sen said he admires the Singaporean's pace and attack. Asked if he could have defeated him in the finals had the two clashed, the 20-year-old said: “We've played in the past and he won two times and I won one. We understand our games a lot better and what to expect, be it the finals or any match. But Srikanth also played really well in the finals and even though he couldn't get a win.”
‘In India, the actual recognition is the Olympics’
Badminton has been a part of Sen's family for two generations now. His father, DK Sen, is a coach himself, his grandfather used to play the sport too and his elder brother, Chirag Sen, currently ranks among the top 100 shuttlers in the world.
Speaking on his son's incredible achievement, Sen's father, who also is one of his coaches, said: “We are extremely happy. He was playing his first world championship and he returned with a medal, which I believe will help him set goals for the future.”
Lakshya joined the Prakash Padukone badminton academy in 2010. When asked how he became a part of such an elite badminton facility, DK recalled an incident that took place over a decade ago, when Sen was just 9-9.5-years-old.
“In 2010 he was 9-9.5 years old and there was a tournament for the Under-13 age group category in Bangalore and we went there to take part in it. Since he was a kid I thought he won't be eligible but I requested Vimal sir and he was really impressed with him. It was during the final stage when the progress actually happened. His elder brother, who was also taking part won the tournament so Prakash sir interacted with us and offered help."
“I said we have a single court in Almora but this one in Bangalore had a hall, the court was bigger. I asked if you could permit them to come and train here periodically when they have off from school. So after that the first time he came to the academy was with his grandfather and they stayed there for 22 days and it was during that duration Prakash sir observed him,” said Sen's father.
His father also mentioned that the 20-year-old was an “extraordinary” student and his grandfather wanted him to become a doctor.
Sen is thankful for the assistance they've received so far. He, however, feels shuttlers in India are recognised once they stand on the Olympic podium and the main focus is that for the father-son duo.
“In India, the actual recognition is the Olympics although there are other big events as well such as All England. But the main target for everyone is Olympics and our target is to win gold at the Olympics,” concluded his father.