Odisha’s Pride – Rutaparna Panda
The nation saw the sporting fraternity emancipated a few domestic talents and more youthful crops of talented shuttlers at an early age in the years gone by. The youths are speeding towards grandeur and guaranteeing that the nation’s future lies on safe hands.
One such individual, who has decided to take the burden of the whole state on her young shoulders, as she became the first woman from Odisha to don the blue jersey.
In an exclusive interview with The Interview Times, Badminton queen Rutaparna Panda talks about her entire badminton journey.
1. What type of kid were you? Did you love studies?
From the first, I was a nerd and enjoyed every bit of my studies. I always had this stubbornness in me, and that reflected in my studies, where I consistently scored decent marks for a long time. I was probably one of the brightest minds in our batch.
I still remember studying for 1 or 2 months before the exam and managed to score 80% in my 10th and 12th Board exams. I would also say, my serious nature helped me to be a competitive person both on and off the field
2. Who influenced you the most in your life? Did you get the support from your family?
My dad (Ramachandra Panda) runs an auto-save parts shop close to our home, yet he has bunches of enthusiasm for Sports. Although he didn’t get the chance to play, he is continually considering how I can improve in my game. He used to prepare, play, and mentor me on different parts of the game. He needed me to play for my nation since I first held the racquet.
His business has gone for a toss due to Covid19 Lockdown. He is not making profits as he used to make back in the day. In the last couple of days, he has opened the shop back again. However, things will take time to come back to normalcy.
I am the first in my family to play for India, and now my sister is getting quick. The contribution of my mom is impeccable, and I can’t even express it in words. My mom (DharitriSevika Panda) has no association with sports. She didn’t comprehend sports a great deal and needed me to concentrate on my studies and exams. My sister (Swetaparna Panda) and I are dreaming big to bring laurels to the country.
3. Tell us the role of Dr. Achyuta Samanta or KIIT, taking care of your academic career?
Dr. Achyuta Samanta sir has provided a lot of support and encouragement to go miles in life. It was a cause of concern for me as I had to shift my base from Odisha to Hyderabad for training. That’s where KIIT came into rescue and allowed me to only attend college during examination., Now, I only come back to Odisha for writing my semester examinations. But, I carry my books with me and try to study after training at my academy in Hyderabad. Achyuta sir has helped me at a time where I needed the most.
4. Where do you manage to get funds for the international tournament?
I am associated with Yonex and Virat Kohli Foundation. VKF has been amazingly useful, and furthermore, is dealing with all my expenses. Now, that has allowed me to concentrate only on the court, continue winning, and not think about the finance. I truly feel obligated to them as they have selected me in the foundation.
5. Tell me about your initial struggles?
Initially, I traveled around 30kms with my dad on his bike to Bhubaneswar in heavy traffic for better training. We had to reach there by 6 o’clock in the morning, which was quite difficult during the rainy and winter season. It was a tough journey for us for almost two years.
Furthermore, I trained in Cuttack for a couple of years. My dad was my first coach. He taught how to hold the racquet just as different essential strategies of badminton on the rooftop of our house. My grandfather had blood cancer, so my dad couldn’t figure out how to take my badminton career forward.
Around 6-7 months, I had quit playing because of these issues. During those tumultuous times, I began playing outside with my uncles/dad to stay aware of my game. My parents and coaches have always supported me during my ups and downs.
6. Odisha is the sports capital of India. How has the response been from the state government?
After getting the Indian Team’s call for the Asian Games, I got some help from the Chief Minister of Odisha. Before that, I didn’t get a lot of help from the state. Monetarily, I didn’t get that much support from the state, but yes, they have backed me in patches.
My dad used to spend his savings on my trips. Because of the absence of funds, I was unable to play All India Ranking competitions and enhance my rankings. I continued playing for the state so that whenever selected, the state will carry me into the Nationals. Those were the troublesome occasions when we were unable to bear the cost of numerous things we needed.
7. Currently, you are training in PullelaGopichand Badminton Academy, the most promising badminton academy in India. What has been your experience out there?
I think I am very lucky to get into the best badminton academy in India. Our coaches, physios, and support staff at the academy are very professional and also very supportive of us. The atmosphere is inspiring at the Gopichand Academy, and the air is very different.
There is consistently an enthusiasm for going into the preparation plans. We get the opportunity to play with heaps of different players who are now playing at the National/International level. The mentors of the academy exhort us truly well on a court just as off the court.
When Gopichand sir is near, the power is a lot higher, and whenever he offers advice, my games go to another level. We, as a whole, love his quality and work much harder when he is near. Contrasted with the preparation I used to have before in Odisha, it’s an immense distinction. Gopichand’s strenuous work ethic extends to the disciplined lifestyle that his students lead.
8. In a lockdown scenario, athletes around the world are struggling to find ways to stay fit. How are you maintaining your fitness?
All things considered, as you probably are aware, with such a large number of limitations in Odisha, we can’t step out for training. To keep up my fitness, I consistently perform home exercises, core exercises, meditation, Yoga, and so forth.
Two times every day, we have meetings as well. In a lockdown scenario, Gopichand Academy has come up with online sessions to remain connected with shuttlers. Other than that, on our own, My sister (Swetaparna Panda) & I perform wall practice, knocking in the house, work on shoulder rehab, strengthening exercises, and above all, we both sisters love dancing. When the games start, we should be prepared to hit the court and hit hard.
9. How was Premier Badminton league experience for you?
I have not got enough chances that I would have liked, but I have enjoyed every bit of PBL. Almost all the junior players got the chance to represent their franchises except me. My problem with the league is they don’t have women mixed doubles, which is my forte. But I have learned a lot from Kim Ha-Na and Lee Yong Dae, starting from practice sessions to cheering from stands.
10. How are you spending time amidst lockdown?
My sister and I invest a lot of our energy in singing and dancing. I feel dancing helps us to keep our fitness level high. I am not generally excellent at cooking. However, I try to help my mother with cooking.
Whatever she cooks is solid and tasty. Whenever we watch TV, the comedy shows are always on. And we also are learning Casio. So, it’s a blessing in disguise for us that we got the opportunity to do these together, which was so uncommon in earlier years.
11. What advice would you like to give to the budding shuttlers who wish to represent the country?
I would like to say to the budding shuttlers just to dream big and stay grounded. It is sheer hard work, patience, determination, and tenacity, which will help you achieve your goal. The biggest virtue to possess is to stick to your roots. There is no shortcut to success, and we have to be positive in our bad times and cherish the good times in our careers.
Article Written By Sobhan Garnaik
Image Source: Google