CHENNAI: Most success stories share a common moral — never quit. It holds true in the case of Alwin Francis as well. The 30-year-old shuttler overcame a serious injury to win the men’s doubles title at the 27th Iran Fajr International Challenge along with Kidambi Nandagopal.
Alwin’s injury was so severe that at one point, he was considering quitting the sport. “After I suffered a torn knee ligament, I didn’t play badminton for four months. I thought to quit the sport and go back to my hometown (Pala in Kerala). But (chief national coach) Pullela Gopichand motivated me and my parents kept me going.”
Alwin gave his best to get back into groove but the journey back took a lot of grit. When asked about his comeback, he said, “I used to practice badminton with a knee brace on, while standing still and these sessions continued for four months. While practicing, I used to take two-minute breaks after 15 minutes of practice (as doctor suggested not to put stress on the leg). There were two sessions a day. Doubles coach Tan Kim Her and physios played a crucial role in my comeback.”
Alwin paired up with Nandagopal two months ago and the duo are currently 144th in the world. But after the recent victory in Iran, their ranking is bound to improve. “Our combination is really working. Day by day, there is an improvement in our understanding and in the game as well. My goal is to break into the top 50 rankings in the next six months,” he said. Alwin started playing badminton from the age of 13 and he was playing at national level by the time he was 16. He secured his MBA graduation and was working with the Food Corporation of India in Cochin.
The Iran win is his sixth international title and he won five of those with Tarun Kona before his injury. Alwin and Nandagopal were unseeded going into the final and defeated fourth-seeded Saurabh Sharma and Tarun Kona 9-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9 in the final. “I am not satisfied as I haven’t recovered completely from the injury,” he said of the Iran win. “Doctors said five percent of the recovery is yet to be done. So once I get back to form, I want to make it big. My lifetime goal is to win a medal in the Olympics.”