Prakash Padukone, one of India’s best known badminton players, was born on 10 June 1955 in Bangalore. Besides rising to the rank of World number one, he became the All-England champion in 1980, thus putting Indian badminton on the world map.
Since his father was associated with the Mysore Badminton Association, Padukone developed an early interest in the sport.
He started participating in tournaments as a child and won the Karnataka State Junior Championship. At the age of 15 he won his first National Men’s singles. He went on to win the Nationals for nine successive years from 1971-1979.
In 1972 he won the Arjuna award.
In 1978 Padukone won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games held in Canada.
His dream run continued and in 1980 he beat all All-England champions such as Fleming Delfs, Svend Pri and Morten Frost. He won both the Danish and Swedish Opens and became the first Indian to win the All England Championship, the most prestigious badminton tournament in the world: in the semis he beat Frost and triumphed over Liem Swie King in straight games in the finals. This spectacular win propelled him to a World number one ranking.
In 1981 while defending his All-England title, he beat Rudy Hartono in the semifinals but lost against King in the finals.
Looking back at the badminton era of the 1980s, in his foreword to the second edition of Padukone’s biography, Frost wrote: “When I arrived on the scene, I was at first awed by the lightning-quick speed and power of the Chinese and Indonesians. I had to quickly figure out how to counter them. Prakash was one of the few who had managed to provide some resistance to their domination with his wristy, deceptive, and counter-attacking style.”
Padukone was awarded the Padma Shri in 1982. He won the bronze medal at the world badminton championships in 1983.
Explaining the factors behind his success, Padukone wrote in October 2012 in Mint: “For me, the success I achieved as a player — at the national level and at the international level — was not an accident — behind each match and every stroke was a lot of thought and practice. And this is also where you realise that you cannot do it alone. I have a lot of people who have worked with me tirelessly at the back-end — as practice partners, coaches and physios, who have helped in this process.”
Padukone retired from competitive badminton in 1991.
Post retirement he was for a short period the chairman of the Badminton Association of India. Between 1993 and 1996 he coached the Indian national badminton squad.
He also co-founded the Tata Padukone Badminton Academy in Bangalore, which has nurtured many talented players, most famously Gopi Chand who in 2001 won the All England singles title.
Padukone’s family consists of his wife Ujjala and two daughters, the Hindi film star Deepika and Anisha, a golfer.
Besides running the badminton academy, Padukone is part of an initiative called the Olympic Gold Quest which, as the name suggests, supports Indian athletes in their pursuit of Olympic glory. In a country with few non-cricketing sporting heroes, Prakash Padukone stands apart for his commitment to Indian sports, which has continued even after his retirement.
Also on this day:
1948 — Sukumaran, Malayalam film actor, was born
1960 — Nandamuri Balakrishna, Telugu actor and politician, was born