It is a story of grit, gumption and determination. A year ago 30-year-old Valiyaveetil Diju was down with a back injury. He had to undergo a surgery. He was out of action for five months. But his thoughts were on 2012 London Olympics. The steely resolve and the never-say-die attitude saw Diju return to active badminton as soon as he got the green signal from his doctor. “I was worried whether I would be able to take part in this Olympics. This was probably my last chance. Myself and Jwala failed to qualify in 2008 Beijing Olympics as we were ranked 25th in the world. However, we fought our way back to qualify for the London Olympics,” said Diju, the doubles specialist from Kochi.
On battling back injury
A year ago, I had a problem with my back. I went for a surgery and it was a calculated risk. I was away from the game for five months and had to be very careful as I knew any false step or hastiness meant disaster. It needed lot of patience and It was a slow and steady return to the court. Initially, it was very painful for I had to work extra hard to come back into top fitness level.
On his comeback
We were 85th in world ranking. It was a huge challenging task to get into top 15 in the next few months. Luckily, having a partner like Jwala (Gutta), the comeback was not all that difficult. Our game began to improve and slowly regained our confidence. We had a couple of good wins. We did well at Chinese Taipei Grand Prix and then reached the quarterfinals and semifinals in the Super Series which helped us to inch towards better ranking.
On top doubles combinations
The Danish and Chinese will be tough for us. But we are prepared for that. I think we stand a chance in Olympics. I think our experience will come in handy. Jwala is also looking in good form.
On pairing with Jwala Gutta
I have really jelled with Jwala. She is a very aggressive player and brings a lot of energy on the court. She is quick at the net while I take care at the back court. Above all She has good power and smash.
On the doubles event
Doubles is all about good coordination. We are relying on our technique and working on our fitness. In this camp, we have laid emphasis on attacking strokes. The left-right combination is a big plus point for us. The opponents do get confused while facing a left-right combination. Jwala has always excelled as a left-handed player.
On Jwala playing two events
I don’t think it will be a problem for her. There will be ample time between the women’s doubles and mixed doubles.
On pressure and chances
There is no pressure. I think we are one of the contenders for a medal. It depends on a favourable draw. Since it is a 16-pair event, we have to play two rounds before the medal round.