BENGALURU: ll good things come to an end. Sometimes it is an indication of a new beginning. That’s exactly the case of Bengaluru-based shuttler Ajay Jayaram, who announced his retirement from competitive badminton on Saturday.
After nearly two decades of a ‘rollercoaster’ badminton career, Jayaram has decided to call it quits. Announcing his retirement on social media, Jayaram said, “Badminton has defined most of what I am today. It has shaped me, taught me, grounded me, and shown me what dreaming big can do...I’ve won, lost, cried, laughed, fought experienced highs and lows, lived and thrived, all within a rectangular space of 44*20 ft.”
Just like everyone else, Jayaram too felt the pangs of the pandemic. Although he wanted to keep his badminton hopes alive since the onset of the pandemic, a desire to move on to start a new beginning also crept in. While he has bid goodbye to competitive badminton, academics seem to be his new calling.
Jayaram explains that he always wanted to pursue higher studies after retirement and he has now decided to take the academic plunge. “I have secured admission at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, for a flagship MBA course. I was always academically inclined since my early days. I hope to diversify my skill set and make the most of the next year. While I am open to opportunities that may come my way, I hope to return to sports in a different capacity,” says the 34-year-old who was coached by Tom John from 2010-2017 and by Anup Sridhar from 2019 onwards. “My coaches knew that my retirement was coming up sooner or later. Both were supportive of my decision,” adds Jayaram.
From picking up badminton at the age of seven to reaching World No. 13 in 2017, Jayaram’s journey was filled with many ups and downs. Some of his best moments in badminton, he recalls, is when he won the Korea Open in 2015, after defeating Danish player Viktor Axelsen and Taiwanese player Chou Tien-Chen. He also won back-to-back titles of Dutch Open in 2014 and 2015 and registered as the runner-up in Dutch Open 2016. If victories were on one side, setbacks were another.
“There were times when I lost opportunities to be part of tournaments and fund myself on many occasions. But my passion for badminton helped me face the challenges and that is what kept me going,” says Jayaram, who is also an artist.
He picked up sketching in 2016 and since then, it has helped him complement with badminton “as athletes we all go through stressful times. Sketching helped me destress. In the lockdown, I picked up painting. I always love to portray humans and their emotions on my canvas. Getting these two elements always intrigues and motivates me. I would love to keep my passion for art going,” says Jayaram, whose first sketch was that of American actor Jack Nicholson.