An Indian player conquering the world at Wembley Arena, London – a pathbreaking moment for Indian badminton and a memory to keep for ages. It was as good as it got in 1980 when India’s shuttle ace Prakash Padukone defeated two-time defending champion Liem Swie King to win the All England Championships to become the first player from the country to achieve the feat. Also Read - Badminton: HS Prannoy Apologises to BAI Over Arjuna Award Outburst on Twitter
What Wimbledon is to Tennis, All England is to Badminton – the most prestigious and the oldest tournament of the sport. Thus, winning this title was Prakash’s ambition in life. And, he achieved that with such authority that even the enthusiasts of the game were stunned. Prakash crushed Liem Swie King of Indonesia, rated as the best in the world, in straight games to lift the title. Also Read - PV Sindhu Says Sports Can Help Win Battle Against Coronavirus Pandemic
King had been the defending champion for the previous two years (1978 and 1979), and as the world No.1, he was the clear favourite to win a hat-trick of All England titles. Also Read - Pullela Gopichand Recommends HS Prannoy For Arjuna Award
However, the then 24-year-old Prakash had other plans as he not only defeated two-time champion King but also did it in emphatic fashion 15-3, 15-10 at the Wembley Stadium in 1980. His remarkable consistency can be gauged from the fact that Prakash did not drop even a single game throughout the tournament.
In the semifinal and final, Prakash defeated the top two seeds. He got the better of top-seeded Morten Frost Hansen 15-8, 15-10 in the semis before silencing the second-seeded Indonesian King. Other than King and Hansen, he defeated Denmark’s Svend Pri in the quarterfinals. Pri had won the singles title in 1975
The lanky Indian star entered the tournament in great form as he had won the Denmark Open and Swedish Open just before playing the All England.
It was a record that for years to come was considered the best performance by an Indian badminton player before current national team head coach Pullela Gopichand managed to emulate that feat in 2001.
“I was very confident, but I was not thinking about winning the tournament. But the two victories, back-to-back, had given me a lot of confidence. I was always focusing on one match at a time but feeling confident that I could do well,” Padukone quoted by ESPN, recounting the tale of 1980.