Four years ago Indian shuttler Ajay Jayaram was well on his way to create a name for himself by qualifying for the Olympics on the basis of his ranking. But an early loss at the 2012 India Open followed by a semifinal performance of compatriot Parupalli Kashyap helped the latter earn the sought-after London ticket under fortuitous circumstances to add the famous denomination of being an Olympian before his name.
That proved to be the turning point in the careers of the two young men. Kashyap made complete use of the opportunity to become the first Indian to reach the men’s singles quarterfinals at the 2012 London Olympics. His rise continued when he was crowned the 2014 Commonwealth Games champion, the first Indian male to do so in 32 years after the legendary Syed Modi.
Jayaram, on the other hand, receded from the main view of the badminton circuit. A shoulder injury leading to a surgery did not help matters. But since the middle of 2015, the Mumbaikar has not just returned but has made more than a mark in the circuit.
The 28-year-old reached the final of Korea Open – a Superseries event – last September, following it up with a title victory at the Dutch Open Grand Prix in October, defending his men’s singles title.
“Reaching the final of a Superseries tournament helped me a lot; it gave me a lot of confidence. I want to string together a few more good results in the upcoming events; if it can be at the All-England Open, then nothing like it. Reaching that final has given me the belief that it is possible,” Jayaram told IANS.
It is 2016 and an Olympic year again. Only the venue has shifted from London to Rio de Janeiro, but this time around Jayaram, currently ranked World No.21, is keen to make amends.
“I had a few good results last year. Hope that I get a little more consistent this year and can produce better results. I have a reasonably good shot (at qualifying) but I have to come up with three or four really good performances,” said the Chennai-born.
The last day of qualifying for the August 5-21 Games is May 1 with 38 spots up for grabs in singles events. Only two positions are available per National Olympic Association (NOC) if their shuttlers are ranked in top-16. Thereafter, regular rankings will be taken into consideration keeping in mind quota places for continental federations.
“It is not going to be easy, but as I said I have a reasonably good shot. I am quite excited about the All-England Open that is coming up in March; I am looking forward to it,” said Jayaram, who trains in Bengaluru.
“Like I said my focus is to get some really big results and try my best in every tournament I play in. If I can manage that, then everything else will be taken care of.”
Jayaram’s credence must have got a real boost earlier this month as his team Delhi Acers won the Premier Badminton League (PBL), which was held in five Indian cities from January 2 to 17. Jayaram was instrumental in Delhi’s success by notching up some crucial wins.
“PBL was great. It was fun, hectic, very exciting and I am also very happy that we won the tournament. We had a very good, balanced team. Our men’s singles line-up was strong. Our men’s doubles pair of Koo Keat Kien and Tan Boon Heong were a regular combine in addition to (mixed doubles specialist) Gabrielle Adcock,” concluded Jayaram.
(Sandip Sikdar can be contacted at email@example.com)