#YOGJourney: HS Prannoy’s transformative YOG experience
A Commonwealth Games gold medallist and one of the world’s top male badminton players, India’s HS Prannoy attributes much of his success to his stellar performance at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Singapore 2010. Here, he explains why.
If the YOG is all about preparing young athletes for long and rewarding senior careers in sport – along with other key aims such as providing an enriching cultural education and valuable learning experience – then HS Prannoy is a prime example of this vision coming to fruition.
A silver medallist in the men’s singles badminton competition at the inaugural YOG in Singapore, the now 25-year-old has gone on to become one of his country’s top shuttlers, which is no small feat when the country in question is sports-obsessed India.
The YOG gave me the platform to perform at the highest level.HS Prannoy India
Prannoy is currently a serious contender to break into the top 10 of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) world rankings, and earlier this year celebrated what has arguably been his finest achievement to date by winning the mixed team gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast (Australia).
For an athlete entering his prime, further glory seems likely to follow. The man from Delhi talks us through his #YOGJourney, and how that formative experience helped shape his career on the court…
What was it like to compete at the YOG?
“The YOG gave me the platform to perform at the highest level. Making the move from junior level to the senior circuit is really tough, and I felt the YOG gave me that confidence to feel that I was one of the best in the world at junior level. I then had the belief that I could push through and make my mark on the senior circuit.
“Winning the silver medal in Singapore was a really important thing to happen to me, because big results such as that motivate you to come back and work even harder for the next couple of years. I definitely needed it at that point in time. The next two years were still a real struggle to get onto the senior circuit, but my silver medal at the YOG was a huge help. When such a big thing happens to you, it’s important that you grab the opportunity with both hands.”
What is the most valuable thing you learned from your YOG experience?
“I’d never played under such pressure before, particularly in the final when I knew my country was hoping for the gold. I couldn’t bring it back in the end, but I was really happy that I could get through the first few rounds, where I felt a lot of pressure.
IOC - Pisit POODCHALAT from Thailand (Gold) and Prannoy HASEENA SUNIL KUMAR from India (Silver)
“At that point in time I didn’t have many matches under my belt. It was the first time I’d played in front of such huge crowds and support, especially with the attention back in my country and with the media there. That was the first time I was experiencing all of those things, and from then on it was like I was learning a lesson each and every time I was performing on the court. The YOG gave me that first experience of dealing with all that external pressure.”
What do you think are the biggest benefits of competing at the YOG as a young athlete?
“The YOG is such a tough competition. It’s a real challenge to actually qualify first of all, so the youngsters understand the impact of winning a medal once they get there. When I played, it was the first time I had competed at such an event. I didn’t realise just how significant winning a medal would be. The impact was huge.
“That’s one major benefit of competing at the YOG: from then on, everyone begins to notice you and it can help you achieve bigger goals. I think it’s something all the juniors will be thinking about right now, and it’s going to be one of the big plus points for them. They’re going to love getting that medal for their country.”
How has competing at the YOG helped you develop as a badminton player?
“My YOG experience definitely helped me prepare for this year’s Commonwealth Games and will help me for the Asian Games too. All the external factors, such as communicating with the media, are more prominent at these bigger events, especially when so many people are behind you and there is so much pressure on you to perform well. That’s the one big thing I experienced eight years ago, which is definitely helping me in my senior career.”
What advice would you give to the young badminton players at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018?
“They just need to enjoy the atmosphere and accept the fact that they’re playing at such a high level. Enjoy each and every moment on court; the results don’t really matter. If you start to enjoy yourself, you’ll have a very good tournament. Good luck to everyone!”