Ramanattukara to London is a long, long journey, and V. Diju is delighted that he has made it.
“It has been a dream to play at the Olympics and now I am dreaming of a medal,” Diju, who will partner G. Jwala in the mixed doubles, told The Hindu here on Monday. He had come home to Ramanattukara, a small town near here, a few days ago from Hyderabad, where the India badminton team is camped.
Diju and Jwala are currently ranked No. 13 in the world. “If we create an upset or two, we could win a medal in London,” Diju said. “And we have had success in the past against the world’s top teams such as Xu Chen and Ma Jin. So, if we bring out our best, a medal is not beyond us.”
The 31-year-old added it felt great to be part of what is a strong badminton team in London. “Saina Nehwal is of course our best bet,” he said. “She has bounced back to top form with titles at the Thailand Open and Indonesian Open and should be a strong contender for a medal; I won’t be surprised if she wins the gold even.”
Impressed with Jwala
He is also impressed with Saina’s fellow-Hyderabadi, Jwala. “She is a great doubles player and I have enjoyed playing with her right from our first tournament back in 2008, at the Subaraya Mayor Cup in Indonesia.
“We won that tournament though we were unseeded; we have lifted half-a-dozen international titles. Among the memorable victories was the Grand Prix in Chinese Taipei in 2009. We were the first Indian mixed doubles team to win a Grand Prix.”
That year, they also reached the final of the prestigious world super series masters final in Malaysia. “Yes, that remains one of our best performances,” he said. “Only the world’s top eight teams qualified for the masters and to play the final was very gratifying. It was after that tournament we were ranked No. 6 in the world, our highest ranking till date.”
He said he was content playing just mixed doubles these days. “I stopped playing men’s doubles after my back injury a couple of years ago.”
Diju added that it was nice to see Indian badminton making rapid strides. “Things have improved a lot since I started playing; now there are more tournaments and better facilities,” he concluded.
Keywords: 2012 London Olympics