Rudy Hartono is one of those sporting achievers who emerge once in a generation. The Indonesian badminton ace, named by India’s own Prakash Padukone as the greatest shuttler in the sport, was in Mumbai to promote badminton via a joint initiative by Maharashtra Badminton Association, Yonex Sunrise and National Sports Club of India.

Hartono touched upon numerous topics during his interaction with youngsters, parents and also played with a few juniors. Talking about the qualities needed to become a champion, he said: “Discipline, focus, perseverance and the attitude of a champion is what it takes to be world champion. I hope the youngsters understand this and benefit from my experience.”

He singled out superior physical fitness as the most critical quality for any youngster aiming for the top. “Badminton is a very fast game and one needs to be extremely fit to play for long periods at a high level. It is not sufficient to just have good shots, one needs to also win points with those shots.”

The Indonesian legend also talked about the milestones Saina Nehwal needs to cross: “She is a good player, but not a star. Saina can become a star with loads of more hard work. She has to win the All-England, the World Championships and the Olympics and only then will she be a star.”

Hartono reasoned that the young Indian still has year to go before the London Olympics, enough time for Sania to get into top physical shape and have a realistic crack at the Olympic gold. Earlier, introducing the Indonesian, Padukone said: “There is no doubt in my mind that Rudy Hartono is the greatest badminton player the world has produced.”

Padukone also recalled an opportunity to watch the eight-time All-England champion and World champion train on the morning before a final. “Hartono did one hour of double skips and according to his coach that was a light workout because he had a match to play in the morning. I do not consider myself a legend as I have won only one All-England. Rudy is the true legend, having won eight.”

“Hartono is the greatest for me because he was a complete player, technically, physically and in stroke play. He was also a great human being and it is an honour for me to meet him after a long time,” said Padukone, who along with Hartono played with juniors at the new indoor courts at the NSCI.

MBA and NSCI honoured Hartono with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” and Padukone with the “Pride of India Award”. MBA is the first association, through Yonex Sunrise, to send three junior players to train in Indonesia. The MBA, in association with NSCI and Yonex Sunrise will also be organising the All-India Senior Ranking badminton Tournament at NSCI from August 17 to 21.

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