Prakash Padukone is, without a doubt, the most famous badminton player from India. He took the country into the international spotlight by becoming one of the world’s leading badminton players. He was admired by fans for his aggressive playing style and is also the founder of the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy.
Prakash Padukone –Early Days
Born in 1955 in Karnataka, Prakash Padukone was introduced to badminton by his father Ramesh Padukone who was the secretary of the Mysore Badminton Association. He took an instant liking to the game and started practicing hard at it. His life has been chronicled in a biography by Dev S. Sukumar titled, ‘Touch Play.’ He married in his twenties and has two daughters.
Padukone participated in the Karnataka State Junior Championships held in 1962 and was flushed out of the tournament after just two rounds. Determined to deliver a better performance the next time around, he evolved into a more aggressive player. Two years later, he nabbed the title in what was just the beginning of an illustrious career.
After winning both the senior and junior titles at the National tournament in 1972, he continued to defend the title for the next 7 years. In the 1978 Commonwealth Games, Padukone tasted his first international success by winning the gold medal in the men’s singles category.
He went on to win multiple titles during his career including the Danish Open, Swedish Open and so on. In 1980, with a win at the All England Championship, he was ranked number one in the world. To recognize his contribution to Indian sports, the government conferred him with the Arjuna award in 1972 and the Padma Shri in 1982. Padukone took off his boots in 1991 when he announced retirement.
Life after Retirement
Post retirement, Padukone has been continuously contributing to the Indian sports scene. He coached the Indian Badminton team for three years, from 1993 to 1996. In association with players Vivek and Vimal Kumar, he founded the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in 1994 to find and groom young talent into medal winning sportsmen. The most famous players who have undergone training at his academy include Pullela Gopichand and Aparna Popat. In 2001, Padukone teamed up with billiards player Geet Sethi and launched the Olympic Gold Quest Foundation, which aimed at promoting sports across the country.
He was a fan of Indonesian Badminton star Rudy Hartono but defeated him in the Swedish Open in 1980. In a 2011 interview, Padukone admitted that his victories against Hartono are the moments he holds to be closest to his heart. One of his daughters is Bollywood starlet Deepika Padukone, while the other daughter Anisha Padukone is a golf player.
He was the first Indian to be ranked world number one after his victory at the 1980 All England Championship. When he won the national senior championship in 1971 at the age of 16, he was the youngest ever player to do so. Though being an Indian player, most of his career was spent in Denmark where he trained for the games.