India’s Lakshya Sen took just 46 minutes to beat top-seeded Kunlavut Vitidsaran 21-19, 21-18 in the final of the Badminton Asia Junior Championships on Sunday to win his maiden gold in a major tournament at Jakarta today.
In the process, the six-seed not only upset the Indonesian applecart but went on to win several hearts amidst the initial local support for the Indonesian in a near-packed hall.
The difference between the two finalists was very minimal and it could be because of the two were meeting each other for the first time. But by the time they began the first game, the vociferous crowd behind Kunlavut it was evident that the 17-year-old Indian will have a tough time.
“I am really happy with my performance. I got a very good support from team members as well. This Asian Junior gold is precious to me,” said Lakshya after the medal ceremony.
“The win against second-seed Chinese the other night helped me. I carried my confidence further and beat the fourth-seed in the semi-finals. And today, I played my natural game to beat Kunlavut. Since it was our first meeting, I played freely without any pressure,” he added.
An Asian Junior gold in men’s singles have come India’s ways after 53 years. The last Indian to win gold was Gautam Thakkar in 1965.
An elated BAI president Himanta Biswa Sarma promptly announced a cash reward of Rs. 10 lakh for the shuttler. “Lakshya has done the country proud. We have been investing on youngsters and we are happy seeing the dividends,” said the BAI chief, who lauded Lakshya’s historic feat.
Understandably, Lakshya was cautious in his approach and started trailing by a few points in the first game before he caught up at 9-9 and then used his customary dropshots and half-court smashes to keep the top-seed shuttler back and forth. In the process, the Indian went ahead 13-11 and from there he never looked back despite his rival coming close to him at 16-15.
After that the Indian just allowed him four more points even as he maintained a comfortable lead to pull it off, much to his relief.
In the second game, Lakshya led with a slender margin but managed to maintain a two-point lead almost all the time. However, midway through Kunlavut inched closer to his opponent and was trailing by a mere single point at 10-11. Yet, there was no real threat to the six-seeded Indian who upped the ante and forced Kunlavut into errors at the net, gaining a four-point lead. Not to be outdone, the Indonesian reduced the margin but it was too late in the day for him stage a real recovery.
Ajay K. Singhania, General Secretary, congratulated the shuttler’s efforts. “It was a great occasion for all of BAI family and officials to celebrate. Winning a medal in Asia is always good, but winning gold is even better. We are really proud of the teenager,” said the BAI Secretary-General.