HS Prannoy’s Asian Games triumph amidst pain and struggle


The image of HS Prannoy breaking down and hugging coach Pullela Gopichand after battling excruciating back pain to seal his maiden bronze medal in Hangzhou was one of the most emotional moments of the Asian Games.
It was a culmination of years of toil as the 31-year-old fought against his body and battled inner demons to lead India to a first-ever silver in men’s team championships and also ended a 41-year-old wait for a men’s singles bronze.
‘’Sometimes people don’t know what happens behind the scenes. They don’t know what struggle we go through to just play and Gopi bhaiyaa has known me for the last 15 years. He knows my struggles, what issues I had in my career,’’ Prannoy said.
‘’He knows how difficult it was for me to play that particular match (quarterfinals) considering the conditions, and opponent (Lee Zii Jia). The shuttles were slow, so you had to hang in there for 30-40 shot rallies, so the pain was mentally tough to bear.’’ Prannoy played with taping and a belt on his lower back under his shirt and dished out a performance for the ages to assure a bronze. Prannoy could have sealed it in straight games but he squandered two match points to see it almost slip away.
‘’I could see that disappointment on his (Gopichand) face after I lost the second game because he knew it would get tougher for me to win from that situation. He knows how hard I fought for that medal. So, it was a culmination of all those emotions,’’ Prannoy said.
‘’To have a medal in the Asian Games is not easy. The fact that no one won in 41 years shows how tough the competition is. To eventually have a medal in my hand was an emotional moment for me and him also, because we knew the value of that medal.’’ For far too long, the man from Thiruvananthapuram has been defying injuries and health issues but never it has been this tough just to turn up on the court. ‘’It has been the toughest tournament in the last 6-7 years.