Prakash Padukone Birthday Special: The pioneer of Indian badminton

The former shuttler became the first Indian to win the All England Open and rise to World No 1 in badminton

By Olympic Channel Writer

Prakash Padukone turned 66 on June 10 and he is undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes in Indian history. He was the torchbearer of Indian badminton in the 1970s and 80s and scored several high-profile wins under his belt.

He was introduced to the sport by his father, Ramesh Padukone, who was a secretary of the Mysore Badminton Association. In 1972, he first tasted success when he won the Indian national junior title. In the same year, he won the senior title and went on to win it for the next nine consecutive editions.

Padukone developed into one of the best players in the world and put India on the badminton map. On the occasion of his birthday, we look at some of the firsts he achieved for India:

Winning the All England Open

Padukone became the first Indian to win the All England Open in 1980. The Championships, much like the tennis equivalent Wimbledon, is considered the holy grail of the sport.

Such was his dominance that in the Round of 16 he defeated Indonesia's Luluk Hadiyanto 15-0, 15-0. His rich vein of form continued in the quarterfinals as well and he blew away former All England champion Svend Pri 15-4, 15-4.

In the semifinals, he faced Denmark's Frost Hansen and Padukone won the match comfortably in straight games (15-8, 15-10). In the finals, he was up against Indonesia legend Liem Swie King but the Indian was too much for him to handle. Padukone raced away with the first game 15-3, and then went on to win the next 15-10 to bag the All England Championship.

Becoming World No.1

In 1980, Padukone rose to World no.1.

He was in supreme form that year. He had a hat-trick of Grand Prix titles including the Swedish Open apart from the Danish and All England crowns. He defeated his idol Rudi Hartono of Indonesia for the first time in the Swedish Open final, a memory that he holds dear to his heart.

Saina Nehwal is the only other Indian to climb to the top of the world rankings. London 2012 bronze medalist Nehwal peaked at No 1 in April 2015.

World Championship 1983

The 1983 edition of the World Championship was held in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Padukone, who beat Luan Jin 15-3, 15-9 in the quarterfinals, had cruised into the final four. However, in the semifinals, he met Indonesia's Icuk Sugiarto who headed into the match after defeating tournament favourite Morten Frost 15-5, 15-3.

Sugiarto continued his winning form against Padukone as he rallied to a 9-15, 15-7, 15-1 win. The semi-final finish, however, was enough for Padukone to bag the bronze and become the first Indian to win a World Championship medal.

Prakash Padukone

World Cup 1980

Padukone won the bronze medal in the 1980 World Cup after he lost in the semifinals.

However, a year later, he improved his performance and bagged the gold medal. He defeated Chen Changjie of China 15-6, 15-8 in the semifinals and then crushed Han Jian 15-0, 18-16 in the final.

Denmark Open

Padukone defeated local lad and fan favourite Morten Frost in the final to win the Denmark Open in 1980.

The Denmark Open is one of the older tournaments in the sport, and was first played in 1935.

The Indian won the first game 15-7 but in the second one, Frost gave a tough fight to his opponent. However, after an intense battle, it was Padukone who emerged the winner after defeating him 18-13 to become the first Indian to win the prestigious Denmark Open title.

Nevertheless, Frost made up for this loss by winning the championship for the next six editions.