Top seed B Sai Praneeth of Telangana and second seed Aakarshi Kashyap of Chhattisgarh grabbed the Men’s and Women’s Singles badminton gold medals respectively in the 36th National Games on Thursday. Praneeth had to work hard for his 21-11, 12-21, 21-16 victory over Karnataka’s Mithun Manjunath.
Thirty-year-old Sai Praneeth’s success meant that Telangana grabbed three gold medals in badminton. They had won the Mixed team and Women’s Doubles titles earlier. Praneeth dominated the opening game, jumping to an 8-2 lead and never looking back. However, Mithun came back stronger in the second game but eventually could do nothing but acknowledge that he was outplayed.
“Once the game started to drift away from me, I played it cool to concentrate for the third game,” said Sai Praneeth, who was understandably happy after winning his first National Games gold. Mithun kept pace with Sai Praneeth for most of the third game but the experienced campaigner did enough to quell the challenge of his young opponent.
Once I took the lead at 16-15, I played it safe. I saw Mithun was tiring and I had just put the shuttle in,’’ said Sai Praneeth, who finished the match with a smash. Earlier, Aakarshi Kashyap dominated the opening game of the Women’s Singles final against an erratic Malvika, who needed time to find her rhythm. The top-seeded Malvika began the second game well, opening up an 8-4 lead. Aakarshi fought back by keeping the shuttle in play longer and closed the gap at 9-9.
However, Malvika wasn’t willing to drop her guard and fold this time around. She kept the pressure on her opponent and again moved up to an 18-14 lead and at that stage, it felt like the match could go into a decider. But Aakarshi changed the tempo of the rallies, pushed Malvika on the backhand corner, and bagged six consecutive points to set up two match points.
Malvika did well to save two, but Aakarshi created a third with a down-the-line smash and then wrapped up the crown with a crosscourt drop to clinch the first gold medal for her state. The Telangana duo of N Sikki Reddy and Gayatri Gopichand clinched the Women’s Doubles gold beating national champions Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam of Karnataka 21-14, 21-11.
PS Ravikrishna and Sankarprasad Udaykumar of Kerala took the Men's Doubles gold beating Hariharan Amsakarunan and R Ruban Kumar 21-19, 21-19. Ashwini Ponnappa and K Sai Prateek of Karnataka started their journey as a Mixed Doubles combination with a comfortable 21-16, 21-13 win over Rohan Kapoor and Kanika Kanwal of Delhi.