V V Subrahmanyam
Akhil Kumar and Saina Nehwal ‘clash’
HYDERABAD: It was a ‘boxing duel’ with a huge difference. Beijing Olympian Akhil Kumar and India’s ace woman shuttler Saina Nehwal were engaged in a friendly sparring at the Pullela Gopi Chand Academy in Gachibowli on Friday afternoon. It was not just beating the heat but also letting the two champion sportspersons get a feel of how different the other disciplines were.
Realising a dream
In fact, Gopi Chand, India’s national coach, revealed that Akhil, the 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, had been asking him to let him train at the former’s Academy here to realise his dream of playing badminton. And, no better venue and an opponent to pick as the two star athletes delighted the national campers (preparing more seriously for the next week’s India Open badminton championship). “It was fun and at the same time a big motivation for many of the youngsters,” felt Gopi.
Well, both Saina and Akhil have a common bond – both are funded by the Mittal Trust of Mumbai in their pursuit of excellence at the highest level and were quarter-finalists in the Beijing Games. “It was great to share my experiences with Saina who is such a modest athlete despite being already a big name in world badminton,” exclaimed the boxer.
Interestingly, 28-year-old Akhil, feels that it was his ‘taqdeer’ which saw him miss a medal in Beijing Olympics despite inspiring his fellow boxers to spring surprises, especially Vijender who clinched the first boxing bronze in any Olympics for India.
“I was unlucky but was really happy that I could play my bit in seeing an Indian win an Olympic medal,” he added.
For her part, Saina says that it was definitely fun even while she is preparing for the India Open. “Well, these things do help us a lot in being fresh before a hectic training schedule. And mind you Akhil is an accomplished Olympian too,” she reminded.
By all means it was a visual delight for both Akhil who is now recovering from an injury and training at the initiative of Gopi in the latter’s Academy here, and Saina who seemed to really enjoy the ‘bout’.