Mere talent is not enough. Both Farid and Shikha have proved that talent with hard work is the only route to achievement

When ace badminton player Saina Nehwal was asked about what makes a champion, she quipped: “A champion has to be disciplined, practice regularly, respect coaches, and ought to have self belief.” Two young shuttlers from the Karnataka Badminton Association (KBA), Daniel Farid and Shikha Gautam have taken this advice seriously. These champion teenagers have brought laurels to the State by winning many major tournaments in recent years. The 16-year-old Farid says badminton has instilled in him a ‘never give up’ attitude, and the thirst to keep winning. Son of Sayeed Shahaab and Nirmala, he started playing badminton when he was 10, after his mother advised him to take the sport seriously.

His first coach was Narayan Swamy of Canara Union (Malleswaram), and then moved to the White Peacock Academy. The teenager points to Prakash Padukone and Lin Dan as his inspirations. Farid is presently India’s top-ranked player in the under-17 category, and has a slew of major achievements to his name — bronze for India in the under-15 category at the Asian Championship in Japan, gold in the men’s singles of the under-17 and under-19 categories at the National championships held last year at Udupi.

The promising youngster thanks his parents for all their love and support, before he goes on to say: “We are a middle class family, and when there are major tournaments outside the city or country, my parents have always encouraged me to participate. They have never let money be a cause of concern. I am indebted to them for all that I have achieved.”

He mentions the role played by his coaches, and adds that his younger sister even prays for a victory before crucial matches. “I am now in I PUC, and the schools I have studied in (Riverdale Public School and Widia Poornaprajna School) were really supportive as they helped me in my academics, and made sure that attendance lost due to badminton did not cause any problems,” he says.

The 15-year-old Shikha Gautam may appear silent and calm, but she is most certainly not the same when on the badminton court. Her records speak for themselves - four titles in the same state championship tournament held at Mandya this year. To add to the long list of State title victories, her other major achievements have been winning three national doubles events last year, and representing India in the international event at Japan.

“My first coach was Amit Deshpande in Nasik, and then I trained under Makrand Deo. Now I have settled down well in the KBA,” Shikha says.

“I am grateful to my parents, who have been her pillars of support. None of this would have been possible without the help of school - Kendriya Vidyalaya.” Asked if she wanted to take this game up professionally, she replied: “Yes, certainly. I will.”