Sharon Raphael came to badminton rather reluctantly. But he is happy that he listened to his dad
PROMISING Sharon Raphael in action at the State Sub-Junior Badminton Championship
A couple of years ago, Sharon Raphael often used to cut his badminton sessions at the Eloor FSA court and slink away to play football. He was among the top scorers in his school tournament last year, firing in four goals from three matches.
But his dad, N. J. Raphael, was not keen on Sharon playing football; he wanted his son to concentrate on badminton.
“My dad pushed me into badminton,” says the 15-year-old. “I was the captain of the school’s inter-house football team but my dad was worried that football would affect my badminton, that I would get injured. So, I used to go for football without telling him.”
No friends, no fun
Everything changed when Sharon joined the Regional Sports Centre badminton academy. The reluctant badminton player began taking the game seriously.
“I have a lot of friends at the Regional Sports Centre, so I began enjoying the game,” says the 15-year-old. “I found badminton very boring at the FSA court, I had no friends there.”
With T. R. Balachandran, a former coach at Bangalore’s Prakash Padukone Academy, and M. J. Mohanachandran, who spotted and guided Kerala’s P. C. Thulasi to the women’s silver at the Senior Nationals a few months ago, training him, Sharon began enjoying success in competitions too.
The other day, he won the biggest trophy of his young career at the Regional Sports Centre. He stunned top-seeded Arun George, a team bronze medallist at the Asian Youth Championship in Colombo early this month and the son of Arjuna Awardee George Thomas, in the final and won his maiden State sub-junior title.
Sharon, however, had to endure many moments of agony before claiming the crown.
“Last year, I had lost to Arun in the semifinal after winning the first game. So, when I trailed Arun midway through the second game in the final this time, after winning the opening game, a lot of things ran through my mind,” says the 11th standard student of Eloor’s MES School.
“I was actually thinking about last year, I thought he would overtake me, I thought I would lose…I was just shivering.”
However, Sharon did not choke this time. He tightened up his game. “I concentrated more on length this time against Arun, I also got some accurate drops inside the box.”
A little later, to his relief and joy, the title was his.
“I was working on my drops and also concentrating on the attack, for the last few months. That helped,” says Sharon.
Coach Balachandran feels Sharon has all the qualities required to become a national star.
“He lacked confidence earlier, he was too sensitive. Even last year, he was supposed to win but he crumbled under pressure,” says Balachandran. “But now, he has changed, he is confident, it’s not easy to win against Arun.”
Since he stays at Udyogamandal, Sharon does not attend the morning training sessions at the Regional Sports Centre which is now home to some of the country’s best players, especially in the doubles.
“He comes to the academy only in the evenings. But he is doing the crucial morning training on his own and because of that, he is working doubly hard. That’s a very good sign,” says Balachandran.
Sharon’s attitude towards badminton has changed completely now.
“Now I love this game. I will work harder,” he promises.
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