Rising young Indian shuttler Unnati Hooda finished with a silver medal in the women’s singles U-17 event at Badminton Asia U-17 & U-15 Junior Championships 2022 in Nothaburi, Thailand on Sunday.
Men’s U-15 singles player Anish Thoppani and U-17 men’s doubles pair of Arsh Mohammad and Sanskar Saraswat also bagged silver medals for India.
According to Badminton Association of India, Hooda had already created a slice of history when she became the first Indian to enter the U-17 women’s singles final at the Asia Junior Championships. Previously, men’s doubles pairs of Arjun MR-Chirag Shetty (2013) and Krishna Prasad Garaga-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (2015) have won gold medals for India in the U-17 category at the tournament.
Top seed Hooda, taking on second seed Sarunrak Vitidsarn of Thailand, went down in three games in what turned out to be a controversial finish to the match. The 15-year-old Indian dropped the opening game as Vitidsarn won five straight points from 16-18 down but bounced back brilliantly to take the second game 21-9. Hooda trailed 5-11 in the decider but after the change of ends, once again found a new gear closing the gap down and levelling things at 14-14.
Soon after, there was a moment of controversy as the two players produced a lung-busting rally and went down on the floor, physically feeling the pace. While lying on her back, Hooda raised her arm for a review as the shuttle was called in from Vitidsarn’s smash. To the naked eye, it looked more out than in and the Indian might have had a case. But the chair umpire refused her referral, presumably not seeing the raised hand and then when the Indian went over to ask for it, was denied for being late.
Hooda pleaded her case, saying she had put her hand up when she was lying down. But neither the umpire nor the referee did anything about it. After a long argument, play resumed and the Thai youngster raced ahead to the finish line winning 18-21, 21-9, 14-21 in 66 minutes. The Indian didn’t win a point after that rally.
Anish and Arsh/Sanskar fell short against Chinese Taipei’s Chung-Hsiang Yih and Lai Po-Yu/Yi-Hao Lin respectively in the finals.
Incidentally, all three Indian finalists were a game down, won second game, but failed to convert third.
Anish was little off-beat at the start and his opponent from Chinese Taipei took full advantage of that to win the first game 21-8. Anish regrouped in the second game to force a decider. was always seen calming himself despite tense situations and that yielded result as he pocketed the tougher second game 24-22.
The decider was a close affair but errors on crucial points hurt the Indians chances as he went down 21-19 in the final game.
Earlier in the tournament, men’s singles shuttler Gnana Dattu and men’s doubles pair Bjorn Jaison and Aathish Sreenivas P. V. had secured bronze medals in U-15 category.
With BAI inputs