Kidambi Srikanth exclusive: "Yoga gives me the power of patience"

Badminton's former world number one is feeling fully fit and confident that he can return to his tournament winning ways.

By Sanjeev palar
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

It has been a long while since India's Kidambi Srikanth last stood on the top step of the podium at a badminton event.

The last time the Indian shuttler won a World Tour even was back in October 2017, and he then went on to clinch mixed team gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games which bouyed him to world number one in April of 2018.

However, major results have been hard to come by since then, as he battled with injury and struggled to find his form.

The global pandemic has made travel difficult, and as a result of tournaments being cancelled coupled with travel bans and restrictions, the 28-year-old missed the qualifying cut-off to make the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

However since the World Tour season resumed after the Olympics, Kidambi shared exclusively with Olympics.com that he feels positive about the way he is performing on court.

"I'm kind of really happy with my progress, not happy with the results, obviously, but with the progress that I could see. I was able to cut down on the unforced errors. I was able to be there in the match, throughout the match." - Kidambi Srikanth to Olympics.com

India's Kidambi Srikanth in action at the 2019 Indonesia Open
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Using yoga to help train his mind

Being mentally present throughout the match is something that the Indian player has been focusing on.

Kidambi confesses that he finds practising yoga key to him being able to stay focused during a match.

" Yoga gives me the power of patience. It really helps me to stay in the moment, it really helps me to keep my thoughts from wondering around." - Kidambi Srikanth to Olympics.com

These are the main areas that he works on when practising yoga, rather than particular poses or position.

"When I'm playing a match, I really want to stay in the moment, I don't want to think too much about the end result. I really want to focus on the next point. I really want to stay in the moment and think about how I have to play."

"So yoga really helps me think about staying in the moment, it gives me the energy to control my thoughts and not think too much about whatever else is happening around me. It's more about the next point, it's about the moment, it's about the there and then."

Confidence and fitness boost

Physical fitness has also been an area that has plagued the Indian, who was already in a battle to get back in shape in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Just as he was finding his stride, the global pandemic and the lockdown that followed brought a halt to his progress.

"At the moment I am really very confident about the fitness level that I have. I'm happy that I am able to train at 100 percent in practice and I'm feeling confident." - Kidambi Srikanth to Olympics.com

With injury issues behind him, he feels that his focus is now about "playing more matches and getting that match-time feeling."

Kidambi also added that his recent run at the Hylo Open 2021 where he made the semi-finals has helped boost his confidence and belief that a big result is not far away.

"I was really very happy with the way I played there. I had my chances even in the semi-finals. It was a game of small margins so one or two points here or there would have made a very big difference."

"To play a semi-finals is a big confidence boost for me. So now I just need to keep getting better from here." - Kidambi Srikanth to Olympics.com

Kidambi's confidence is clearly on the rise and with it, his ability to trust in himself and become a force to be reckoned with on court, a self-belief that he also shares, "I think I'm quite there. It's about just able to finish off matches."

Taking nothing for granted

After making the quarter-finals of the Rio 2016, the same Games where PV Sindhu clinched an historic silver for India, there was no doubt that Kidambi would have been aiming for a podium finish at Tokyo 2020.

However, his dream of becoming a two-time Olympian was dashed when he was unable to garner enough points to make the cut to head to Japan. It was a low moment in his career, especially given the progress he was making on court, but it's been a year that has taught him some very valuable lessons.

"I think that 2021 taught me that nothing comes easy. There are things that will not work for you, say like the tournaments not happening before the Olympics. So things don't happen in your favour all the time."

And with that, he has learnt how to deal with disappointment and focus on the things that he is able to control.

"It's more about understanding it, and then moving on from it, and then thinking of what's next and focus on how you want to get better."

With his fitness back to where he wants it and clear mental approach, Kidambi continues on his path to return to the sharp end of the world rankings.

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