Youngsters are straining every nerve to make a podium finish in their chosen sport

This city considered the commercial capital of Andhra Pradesh is fast earning another sobriquet – the sporting capital - thanks to the laurels achieved by players and coaches against all odds. As providence may have it – the word ‘victory' is associated with city's name and the youngsters are straining every nerve to make a podium finish in their chosen sport.

The district that gave birth to legendary international sportsmen such as Kamineni Eswar Rao and Dandamudi Rajagopala Rao (weightlifters) in the pre-television era saw players from disciplines such as badminton, volleyball, chess, kabaddi, and table tennis achieving international fame and recognition. The sporting facilities also began to improve as per the need and the coaching regimes also underwent changes as per the international standards.

Badminton, with the committed vision of the State and district associations, carved international identity and the players from Vijayawada such as Chetan Anand, Neelima Chowdary, A. Prudhvi, Sunil Chowdary, P.V.V. Lakshmi, P.V. Sarada, J.B.S. Vidhadhar, Kiran Kumar, Radhika Reddy, Srilakshmi, and A. Swetha donned the Indian colours.

Senior SAI coach P.U. Bhaskar Babu also went onto perform the duty of Indian coach and as the personal coach of World No. 5 shuttler Saina Nehwal. “When Bhaskar was coach, the city reached its peak in badminton. But, with the gradual shifting of activities to Hyderabad (after the IT boom) and with former all England championship Pullela Gopichand setting up his academy, players began to move over to Hyderabad. Bhaskar Babu's deputation to Hyderabad shut the doors on the growth of badminton in Vijayawada,” felt a sports analyst.

In Grandmaster Koneru Humpy (Elo 2589), the city saw a new brand ambassador for sports as she conquered the world with her series of exploits. Humpy played a pivotal role in helping Vijayawada acquire a tag - ‘chess city'. Following her footsteps, dozens of youngsters –Lakshmi Sahiti, G.V. Sai Krishna, Y. Sandeep, Dasari Sai Srinivas, Abhilash, Lasya, and Divyasri – began pursuing chess seriously and took part in international tournaments. Teenager M.R. Lalith Babu emerged as second Grandmaster from Vijayawada thus enhancing the reputation of the city. All the four Grandmasters from AP – Humpy, Harikrishna, Harika, and Lalith Babu - honed their skills in Vijayawada when chess administrators Bobba Venkateswara Rao and late Siva Prasad staged several national events. Humpy's father-cum-coach Koneru Ashok for his committed coaching stint was conferred with the prestigious Dronacharya Award.

However, with the administrators from Hyderabad dominating the Andhra Pradesh Chess Association, the activities have shifted to Hyderabad and chess in Vijayawada lost its momentum.

In volleyball, the city produced international spikers in P.V. Ramana and G. Pradeep and Naima (in distaff section), and in kabaddi, players such as Mohan Rao, Kalyani, Swetha, and Padmaja Bala brought fame to the country as players and coaches. Under the tutelage of international jury-cum-coach Ram Mohan, gymnasts Nagamallesh and R. Vijay Sekhar Patel took part in competitions in Hungary and Germany respectively. In basketball, Subbaiah Choudhary earned his slot in Indian team and in cricket Nekkanti Madhukar bowled along with Ajit Agarkar for India ‘A” team in Pakistan. Now, all the eyes of the sports buffs are riveted on the young archers at the Volga Academy as the city has every chance of winning a medal or two in 2014 Asian Games and 2016 Olympics. For all this to take forward the city needs to maintain and upgrade its sports infrastructure and bring good coaches.

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