When asked about their New Year resolution, Arun Vishnu and Aparna Balan, the top-seeded pair in mixed badminton doubles, undoubtedly said it was clinching the Common Wealth Games and Asian Games mixed double titles. That is their understanding in and off the shuttle court. Adding feathers to their cap, the city-based young players bagged the mixed doubles title in the national championship held inDelhi recently.
With this title, the players have scripted a history of clinching hattrick national title and playing six consecutive finals in mixed doubles event since 2008. Earlier, in 2013, they had won the Bahrain International Badminton Championship after defeating the V Diju and Siki Reddy pair 21-14, 25-23 in a close tussle. In 2014, the duo, representing Petroleum Sports Promotion Board, are eyeing titles in Common Wealth and Asian Games, and thereby marking their presence in the international badminton scene.
“Our better understanding is the success mantra behind our victories. We have been playing together for eight years and this provides much comfort in the sport”, avers Aparna, who is busy with her training sessions at Pullela Gopichand Academy, Hyderabad. Arun Vishnu, a Sports Officer with IOC, Hyderabad, is also undergoing training here. The experience in Gopi sir’s academy is very different and this infuses a huge level of confidence, he says. Every day, there are training sessions for seven to eight hours and it is Gopi sir who prepares the schedules, adds Arun.
The defending champions defeated the Aswini Ponnappa and T Kona pair in the final 21-10, 21-17 and went on to clinch the mixed doubles title the third time in a row.
It was A Nazer, a coach with the Kozhikode District Sports Council, who proposed the idea of making Arun and Aparna play in the mixed doubles category after watching their performances in the court during the practice sessions under him. In 2005, proving the coach’s decision right, they bagged mixed doubles title in the junior nationals with a stunning show. Later, in 2008, they clinched the Baharin Open title and became prominent figures in national badminton.
Interestingly, Aparna was practising athletics during her school days, but she later changed her interest to badminton. “In 2001, she bagged doubles and singles title in the under-13 section at the nationals held in Chennai. From this performance, we realised that she has a better future in the game”, says Nazer. “Arun is an amazing player with strong smashes,” he adds.
“We have to perform better than we did in the nationals and that is what we would be looking to do in the Common Wealth and Asian Championship. We are training hard to make the most of this opportunity”, says Arun. All-India ranking tournaments at Barely, Lucknow, Bangalore and Kochi are the other major national events before the pair. Olympics, then World Championship, the aspirations are high for these players.