A new academy in the city aims at churning out champions from Bangalore and beyond

In the past few years, there is a big spurt in growth of badminton academies in the country, thanks to the superb showing in the international arena by shuttle stars such as Saina Nehwal Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta. The newest entrant is Tom’s Badminton Academy. Tom John, with a three decade of international experience is the chief coach of the academy.

It was the die-hard enthusiast of the game, Thomas Kunnath, an industrialist with a passion for the game, who took the initiative to form the academy.

He says, “It is an idea conceived and executed by me, coach Tom John and former National champion Anup Sridhar. I have run academies at State level and wanted a international class academy in Bangalore. We began our centre in Koramanagala club in April 2012, and runs at the City Nest in Indira Nagar.”

Been there, done that

For players like Anup Sridhar, Ashwini Ponnappa, Ajay Jayaram and Jacqueline Kunnath, training with Tom John is not new. Ajay Jayaram became the National men’s singles runner-up, while another ward, Varsha Belwad, was a runner up in National women’s doubles. At the State level, the shuttlers from Tom’s Academy swept four of five titles in the recent State senior championship with Prakash Jolly and Jacquleine Rose Kunnath emerging as the men’s and women’s champions respectively.

Besides these players, the talented bunch includes trainees such as Arati Sara Sunil of Kerala, Shubankar Dey , Siddarth Thakur , Riya Pillay of Maharshtra, Arun of Tamil Nadu, Sara Naqvi and Arsalam Naqvi of UP, Mohit of Kamath of Karnataka and former National Junior girls champion and international Aditi Mutatkar. The academy has been sponsored by Arrahat Group. Kunnath contends that the academy needs more financial support. “While we can impart training, funds are needed to send players abroad and for their kits.”

Another top priority of Tom’s Academy is to build its own stadium, complete with multiple courts, gym, rest rooms and residential quarters for the players. While Kunnath oversees the administrative functions of the academy, the engine behind the training programme is Tom John.

High hopes

Tom says, “At the outset, I was sceptical but as I was instrumental in start ups in Portugal and Lucknow, I decided to give it a shot.” Tom has pinned lot of hopes on Ajay Jayaram to make it to the top 10 in the world. “In my opinion, Ajay is a complete player though we have other strong contenders for him like Guru Sai Dutt, Srikkanth and Kashyap.” He also commends the dedication of Ashwini Ponnappa, whom he feels can get another Commonwealth Games doubles gold with Jwala Gutta.

Tom John hailed IBL as the best thing to happen to Indian badminton in recent times. But he has a word of caution for the organisers and feels that it should be stream lined.

“There were quite a few flaws, like the lack of open auction, dropping women’s doubles and cutting their base price, tight schedules which saw players virtually play out of suit cases, inclusion of players who were not in the original team list and not allowing players to talk to the media. These are major concerns and I hope IBL can set them right.’’