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Megha Merin Ninan serves a double treat

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Megha Merin Ninan
Megha Merin Ninan

Stan Rayan

KOCHI: She was a very lazy girl a few years ago. Like most pampered NRI children, Megha Merin Ninan needed her parents push for everything. Even getting up early to go to school became a big chore. Her parents wanted to change her.

“Not only was she lazy, she was too dependent on us for everything”, said her dad Mathew Ninan. “I wanted her to be on her own feet, wanted her to know the world”.

So, he put her into badminton. To make things easy for her, he quit his Gulf job and bought a flat close to Kochi’s Regional Sports Centre where Megha took her first steps in the shuttle game. Still, Megha was a very reluctant player.

“One day, when I was in the seventh standard, I played a State tournament final against P.C. Thulasi (the current Senior National women’s singles runner-up). That changed everything,” said the 18-year-old. “I knew that if I was playing a State final, I should be good.”

She was a transformed girl after that match, now even willing to stay all 24 hours on court.

The other day, Megha won two doubles titles — the women’s with Thulasi — and the mixed with Ram C. Vijay — in the Kerala State senior championship at Udyogamandal. And to top her memorable day was the news that she had been selected to the Indian team for the Junior World Championship in Kuala Lumpur in October. Megha’s switch to doubles came under interesting circumstances. “I felt the coaches at the Regional Sports Centre were virtually ignoring my daughter,” said Mathew.

So, two years ago, during week-ends and whenever she got a holiday, I used to take her to Thrissur where Mohanachandran (the Kerala Sports Council coach) coached her at the centre there. It was Mohanachandran who advised her to move to doubles.

“She was a bit slow for singles,” said Mohanachandran, who is also the coach of P. C. Thulasi.

“But I realised that she was not afraid to serve to male players. I felt she would be good in doubles, especially the mixed doubles which is now her main event. The girls doubles is just a bonus”.

The coach was also impressed with her arm strength. “She has good arm strength, in fact, among the best in the country. I think only Saina Nehwal (World No. 8 in singles) and Jwala Gutta have better arm strength,” said Mohanachandran, who joined the Regional Sports Centre as its chief coach a few months ago.

“It gives you a big advantage with the smashes and net taps. Her only problem is, sometimes, she gets nervous when she leads. If that fear goes, she will do very well.”

Megha, a front court player, is now the country’s top ranked junior in mixed doubles. She dominated the junior national circuit with K. Nandagopal, a Gopi Chand Academy trainee in Hyderabad and plays with Kerala’s Ram C. Vijay in the senior circuit.

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