Birmingham and Beyond: Birthday Boy Lakshya Sen on His Historic CWG Gold and What Lies Ahead

Laksha Sen was in Mumbai the day after he returned from Birmingham, to shoot an ad for Master Card. Relaxed and elated, he was in a bubbly mood when I met him and agreed to talk about his Birmingham sojourn where he collected two medals for his efforts.

He comes across as a decent, mature young man who speaks softly and makes his point succinctly.

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Sen put on a tremendous show of defensive play en route to his medals. The dangerous-looking full-length dives that saved him many a point seem to be delivering results for the boy from Almora.

“It is an automatic reaction to a sharp smash coming into my court. One can’t practice the dives. Yesterday as a kid when my father used to coach me he put in a lot of practice in defence play,” Sen recollects.

“He used to tell me, first learn how to save a point and then to win the point. So defence Now comes naturally.”

In the all-important gold medal match against Ng Tze Yang, there was one rally that really stood out. Sen dived to his right to retrieve an impossible-looking smash as he picked up the bird two or three inches from the ground. With one eye on the opponent’s movement, he lifted the bird all the way to the baseline. Tze Yang was taken aback and could only watch the bird sail over his head.

“I was committed to playing that shot. From the corner of my vision, I could sense that he was going to rush to the net.”

“Not only did I  have to play that shot but I had to get it to a place which will give me time to recover for the next one. So I just played what came naturally to me.”

Former badminton player and coach Vimal Kumar, who moulded Sen’s game during his nascent years at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, sends the 21-year-old his wishes and messages to the young shuttler before crucial games that have aided in his pursuit of perfection.

“Vimal sir knows my game inside out. He has been coaching me for ten years. He has so much experience and thoroughly understands the sport. So when he sends a message it is for my good. And I try to follow up as much as possible,” said Sen in a humble tone.

Sen has worked on his game in order to make it more comprehensive and has effectively built his repertoire to reach the position he has managed today. But, he still feels there’s room for improvement.

“There is always room for improvement,” he says.

“I have to continue working on my fitness and make my defence tighter. I should be able to attack more and with more speed and power. I have to focus more and should not get distracted by anything on the court,” said Sen.

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Being away on the circuit could take a toll on athletes, especially the young ones. When asked about what he misses most about home, he responds with a heartwarming, grounded answer in all sincerity.

“I used to miss mother’s food a lot initially. But now she has come to Bangalore and makes the food I like. I do not feel homesick now as I am playing my matches and am really busy.”

“Only while returning do I start feeling a bit homesick. But I am ok otherwise.”

After having picked up the gold on his debut at the Thomas Cup and the Commonwealth Games, Sen isn’t ready to rest on his laurels yet as he has his sight fixed on the upcoming World Championships.

“I will be training for the world championships and I intend to win it,” claimed the youngster.

“I am in good form and am looking forward to the championship. I got a bronze medal last year as I went down to Shrikant in the semifinal. I want to make amends this time around.”

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