Coming from Mizoram, Saitluangpuia hopes to take giant strides in badminton

Written by Nitin Sharma

Updated: July 7, 2022 10:30:16 pm

Saitluangpuia would start playing badminton at the Ramhlun Indoor Stadium under coach Lalchhuanawna on the insistence of his father. (Pic: Express Photo by Jaipal Singh)

Last year in June, when Saitluangpuia Sailo contracted Covid-19 at his Aizawl home, the Mizoram shuttler had to spend more than a week in a local dispensary followed by an isolation ward. The youngster would spend his time in dispensary and isolation centre watching videos of two-time Olympic and five-time world champion Lin Dan on Youtube or asking his father Saizama Sailo, who works as a PWD driver, to get him some badminton gear from the Myanmar border.

On Thursday, as the 16-year-old youngster scored a 15-10, 15-7 win over Dhiren Yadav of Haryana in the boys’ singles u-19 second qualification round on the opening day of the 29th Yonex Sunrise Smt Krishna Khaitan Memorial All India Junior Ranking Selection Tournament at Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, the SAI-Gopichand National Academy trainee would head to the spectator gallery and once again get busy in watching Dan’s videos on his phone.

“I had gone home from Hyderabad and contracted Covid-19. I spent more than a week at the local dispensary and isolation centre and the only thing I would do to keep me busy was to watch Lin Dan’s matches on my phone. My father often travels to the Myanmar border and also sells some imported goods in Aizawl to support my finances and he would also get me some t-shirts and badminton strings to keep me motivated. Their motivation keeps me going,” shares the youngster.

Saitluangpuia Sailo from Mizoram after winning in 29th Yonex-Sunrise Smt. Krishna Khaitan Memorial All India Junior Badminton Tournament

Saitluangpuia would start playing badminton at the Ramhlun Indoor Stadium under coach Lalchhuanawna on the insistence of his father. While the youngster was not serious about the sport in his initial days at the stadium, he would become one of the top players amongst the 30 odd trainees at the stadium. After becoming the Mizoram U-11 champion in 2016, the youngster would feature in U-15 ranking tournaments.

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A first round loss in the U-15 category in the Sub-Junior Nationals in Orissa in 2018, notwithstanding, a SAIb scheme saw him being selected for SAI-Gopichand National Academy in Hyderabad, and was followed by five wins before a loss in the second round in main draw of the All India U-15 Ranking Tournament at Guwahati in 2019 apart from a second round appearance in Singapore Youth International the same year and a fourth round appearance at an international junior tourney in Thailand.

“The Ramhlun stadium had three courts and with more than 30 trainees, we had to wait for our turn for practice. It meant that I would go to the stadium after my school hours to get some extra time for practice at the courts before training sessions. When I got selected for the Gopichand Academy under the SAI scheme, it also relieved my family of having to think about finances for me. I would observe Kidambi Srikanth sir during his training hours and would also make videos of his half smash and backhand to observe later,” shares the youngster.

Last year, Saitluangpuia played in his first ever senior ranking tournament at Hyderabad where he scored five wins in the qualification rounds before the first round loss against Balraj Kajla. This year, the youngster made it to the main draw of the All India Junior ranking Tournament at Bengaluru last month before he lost in the second round in the main draw.

“When he initially came to us, he had the stamina but lacked the attacking shots. So we had to work on his speed and control. As his shots got stronger, he had better control too over the shuttle. The main challenge for him now is to make a smooth transition into the senior level and he needs to gain more speed as well as more deceptive shots,” said Anil Kumar, coach at Gopichand Academy.

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