New Delhi, May 10: Junior India shuttler Varun Kapur has blossomed into one of India's finest rising stars, currently perched at a junior BWF world ranking of 4. The Kolkata-lad's passion for badminton was such that it compelled his parents to move from the City of Joy to train in Pune at the tender age of eleven.
The move only emboldened him and with dreams of winning an Olympic medal for India, Kapur has been quietly making his progress in that direction as he reached a staggering 6 finals on the BWF junior circuit in 2019, finding success at the Valamar Junior Open, the Cyprus Junior and the Lithuanian Junior and he brought that momentum into the new year to finish as the runner-up at the Hungarian International Junior Championships.
Kapur's resilience and fighting spirit even under pressure have been his biggest asset in his journey so far. At the time of lockdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, he's striking a balance between his training and studies.
In an exclusive chat with MyKhel, the teenage shuttler Varun Kapur spoke about his journey so far, his dreams and about his routine in self-isolation.
Talking about his daily routine during the lockdown, Kapur said he's doing some house chores and even helping his mother in the kitchen apart from studying and workouts.
"As we all have a lot of free time due to the lockdown, I begin my day by preparing my breakfast and then read some books, watch some movies, and chat with friends. I am helping my mom out in the kitchen to prepare lunch for us. And in the evening, I train for a couple of hours with whatever equipment I have with me. My workouts for the day comprise either strength, endurance or agility related. My fitness trainer Kaifi Afzal is helping me out with his advice," Kapur said.
When asked about his studies, the junior shuttler said, "I am studying in class 12 and have Psychology, Business Studies, Mass Communication, English and Environmental Studies as my subjects. So, once I am done with my workout in the evening, I sit down for studies. Wherein I finish my assignments and read my textbooks. I make sure that I dedicate regular time in my studies during this break."
Talking about how he developed his liking towards the game the 17-year-old said he used to visit the club on Saturdays with his father and picked up the game for fun. But eventually, he became serious towards the sport and decided to pursue a career in it.
"I used to visit Saturday club in Kolkata and that's where I first started playing because it seemed like a fun sport and my father also used to play. Radu sir in Saturday club started guiding me and for two years I trained under him. Later on, I joined Badal Bhattacharya and Laltu Guha for trained under them for three years. Later, to better prospects and enhancement of my skills, I moved to Pune from Kolkata and joined Nikhil Kanetkar Badminton Academy (NKBA). I have been a part of this academy for the last five years and train under Nikhil Kanetkar and Mayank Gole sir."
When asked about the support of his parents and the decision to move to Pune, Kapur said both his parents were equally supportive and they took this step to ensure he gets the best of training and exposure.
"My father is an art collector and my mother used to work in the hospitality sector and they took this decision for my good when I was 11. Initially, I lived with my grandparents here. But later my mother also shifted here and she now takes care of my nutrition and other stuff. My father travels with me on tours and he keeps me motivated all the time," he added.
Talking about his journey so far, Kapur says it's been satisfying but he doesn't wish to be content and aims for bigger challenges in the years to come.
He claimed, "Winning a gold medal in Dubai in 2018 gave me the belief that I can compete with the best in the junior circuit. From then on I started setting targets for every year. In 2019 my target was to make it to the top 10 and I ended up finishing at 9. This year, I progressed to world number four and my goal is now to become world number one."
The teenager says during the 2016 Indian Open, he met former world champion shuttler Viktor Axelsen of Denmark and two-time Olympic gold medallist Lin Dan of China and was impressed with their game and work ethics. "I idolise Viktor Axelsen and Lin Dan, I want to win an Olympic medal for my country," he said.
Asked about the obstacles or injury concerns he's faced in his career so far, Kapur said, "Last year after giving my class 10 board exams I didn't feel physically and mentally ready to play the Valamar junior in Croatia but Nikhil sir told me it would be good exposure for me. Winning that tournament gave me a lot of confidence and self-belief."
Talking about his plans for the senior stage he said, "I have already started playing senior tournaments in India and target is to play senior international tournaments from next year. I am gaining experience by playing the senior nationals so that my progression from juniors to seniors is smoother."
When asked how he works on keeping himself mentally fit, the teenager said, "I seek the help of Gayatri Vartak Madkekar, who is a sport psychologist. She's a former international badminton player and Director of Samiksha Sports and helped me calm down myself. Earlier, I used to lose my cool on the court and that was hampering my game but after getting in touch with her has made a difference. I meet Gayatri ma'am pretty often and stay in touch with her during all my tournaments. Also during this lockdown, I get in touch with her so that I don't lose my focus because things can get tough when are away from the court and not playing the sport you love," he added further.