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Railways put Vaishnavi Bhale’s badminton career on track
- Updated: April 22, 2020
Stretching Saina Nehwal in a match is not everyone’s cup of tea, particularly in India.
Vaishnavi Bhale was the only city shuttler who kept Saina on her toes when they clashed in the women’s singles semifinals at the Senior National Badminton Championship at Guwahati in February, 2019. Although, Vaishnavi lost 15-21, 14-21, she won hearts for putting up a gutsy 35-minute fight against the eventual champion.
The impressive display not only helped Vaishnavi burst into the limelight but also forced many to take notice of her extraordinary talent. The Indian Railways authorities were among those impressed and a job offer followed.
Vaishnavi gets nostalgic when asked about last year’s match. “It was certainly a memorable match for me. It was the first and only time I faced Saina. I gave my best and there were several long rallies. It was a huge stadium thus the air resistance was more there. So, I had to put extra effort. It was my sixth match of the tournament,” Vaishnavi told TOI on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old admitted that her bronze medal effort enabled her to secure a job. “I was in desperate need for a job for the last three years. Despite representing India in the prestigious Uber Cup and Asian Championship, I didn’t have a job.
“Guwahati show helped me clinch the much needed job. I also got offer from Air India but since Railways approached me first I opted for them,” said Vaishnavi, who works as junior TC in Central Railway, Nagpur.
After joining Railways around year ago, she justified her selection by dominating the Inter-Railways and other departmental tournaments.
“Actually, getting a permanent job in Railways was the turning point in my career. I am more relaxed now and can play freely. I emerged as the Central Zone singles champion at New Delhi and booked my berth in the Senior Nationals slated to be held at Lucknow,” said former India No. 2.
Vaishnavi, a student of LAD College, said her next target is to regain her place in the national side by producing consistent performance in the All India ranking tournaments this season.
Vaishnavi’s coach and mentor Kiran Makode is pleased with his longtime trainee and optimistic about her success in the next few years. “When Vaishnavi first came to me she was hardly eight-year-old. As she had a lean frame, I focused on developing her game in classical mould.
“With her sincerity and excellent work ethics she mastered the basic technique and skills of the game quickly and went on to become district, state and national-level champion. She also went on to represent India at the highest level alongside Saina Nehwal,” said Makode.
However, he felt that lack of sponsorship halted Vaishnavi’s rise. “She was unfortunate that despite performing well innumerable times she didn’t get the financial support to participate in the international tournaments and make her mark at the world level. However, I am happy with her achievements so far and I am working on certain specific areas for improvement. I’m confident that next season she would perform even better,” added Makode, who is himself an international shuttler.