One of the most prominent sporting couples from India, Indian badminton stars Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap got married in 2018 after a long courtship.
“We connected because we would always have the same mindset. Her every conversation was about badminton and I liked it,” Parupalli Kashyap said during an Instagram Live session with shuttler Sanjana Shetty.
Kashyap, a 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, also believes his affection towards Saina Nehwal also helped motivate him to become a better player.
“I really liked her. I really liked the way she trained, it motivated me a lot and her pure effort, her attitude in matches, the way she fought. I was almost a fan. She would keep on motivating me to work hard and push extra,” Kashyap explained.
Saina and Kashyap first met at a badminton coaching camp in 1997 as teenagers and started to meet more frequently from 2002.
“We dated for a long, long time. It was childish that we hid it from all our friends. We would be very secretive about it. We were shy and scared,” Parupalli Kashyap recalled the early days.
Both were busy with their own badminton careers and had very little time to meet but eventually, things started getting serious.
“Around 2009-2010 is when I thought I am going to be with this girl for a long time. (I started) thinking about marrying her or living together after the London 2012 Olympics. It got a little more serious in my mind.
“She will have her own story, but this is how I felt,” the 33-year-old Kashyap said.
Coaching Saina gave Kashyap a new lease
The relationship also helped reignite Parupalli Kashyap’s motivation to continue playing the sport. He was the first Indian male shuttler to enter the quarter-finals of an Olympics in London 2012.
Multiple recurring injuries from 2016, however, had disrupted his badminton career for a while and had even made him consider his options.
“I was thinking maybe I should quit because I was just getting injured all the time and I was not able to play at the level I expected myself to play,” he said.
However, Kashyap found a way to reconnect with the sport through Saina.
“That is when I asked Gopi sir (Pullela Gopichand) that I am sitting idle and extremely bored and I feel no motivation. I feel motivated to train and help Saina. I have some inputs and I want to try it on her. He was like - ‘okay do that.’”
Under Parupalli Kashyap’s training, Saina Nehwal went on to win the bronze at the 2018 Asian Games. But the win meant a lot more for Kashyap.
“When I was training her and sitting for her matches, I also wanted to play the tournament. I thought I don’t just want to be a coach here.
“That helped me come back. I got motivated to train again and everything fell in place. Coaching her helped me and it helped her,” Kashyap revealed.