There are a lot of things one can do when they’re passionate about something. People work, fight, and sometimes even beg to fulfill their passion and to work towards something they really believe in. However, this tribe is limited. Twenty-three-year-old Sumeeth Reddy from Hyderabad overcame all his struggles to play badminton full-time for India and is currently ranked 38 worldwide in Doubles Badminton, winning several tournaments along the way.
It was not an easy journey for the young Hyderabadi, who suffered a career-threatening injury in 2012, due to which he had to give up his singles career. “The injury occurred about two-and-a-half years ago. I felt severe pain in my back. When I contacted my physio, he said that there is some degeneration going on in my bone cells. I then met a few other doctors, went to Mumbai to seek treatment. After a few suggestions, we thought that singles would be a harder path to take on since I had to cover a lot more ground,” recalls the shuttler, who still seems shaken by the decision.
Despite quitting singles, Sumeeth was not willing to give up the sport yet and got into doubles. “At that stage, I was ranked fifth and was just entering the senior-level, so it was hard for me to quit playing singles. But I immediately took up doubles. I just wanted to try it out so I went off for an year and then tried doubles. In the first tournament, I went on to win the National Championships and that changed everything,” he shares.
Though he embarked on his doubles career, Sumeeth reveals that it was done against his doctors’ advice. “The doctors hadn’t given me the option of playing doubles either,” he quips, when asked about his decision to quit singles. “They told me to continue playing only if I absolutely had to. I told them ‘It’s my profession and I can’t just quit’. The pain is always there, but it’s about how you manage it. It’s all about how well you strengthen up your muscles, do your massage and stretches. If I focus more on those, then my back will be fine was how I consoled myself.”
He admits that he sometimes feels the pain while playing. “Everyone has their own issues, it’s the back for me. I do have pain, but in sport, there is always going to be pain. It’s all about how you are able to deal with it and how you face the pain,”states Sumeeth, who is also an Inspector in the Income Tax Department.
When asked on what spurred him to continue playing the sport despite the pain, Sumeeth says that his father was his biggest inspiration. “My dad was an athlete. He had nobody to train him — neither a coach nor a dietician. He didn’t even have support from his family, and my grandfather, did not encourage him. Despite all that, he pushed himself and went on to become a national-level marathon runner. So I said to myself, if he can do that, maybe I can go a little further,” he explains.
“This is my life. Sport is a part of my life. Giving up singles was a tough job, but some sacrifices have to be made, but at least I’m still in the sport,” he passionately adds.
Though his career was blossoming, Sumeeth did not completely neglect his education and graduated in Bachelor of Arts from Osmania University, Hyderabad, in 2012. However, he had to discontinue his MBA to focus on his badminton career. When asked about his future plans, Sumeeth, who recently won the Tata Open India International Challenge 2014 along with partner Manu Attri, says, “2014 was a good year and I just wanted to keep that up and compete in the next tournament, which is the Syed Modi tournament. We had won a few international challenges, but this is the next level. We would like to win it, but it’s easy to say and much harder to achieve. So I’ll keep working on it.”
Taking his own career as an example, the Shuttler advices youngsters wanting to get into the sport to keep pursuing the game they love and never give it up. “I will tell aspiring players to just come in and enjoy the game. After a point, you will get addicted to it. It’s like any other addiction — once you get in, you never go out,” Sumeeth signs off. firstname.lastname@example.org