Kidambi Srikanth was well and truly outplayed in the last two games as Lee Chong Wei turned back the years to beat his much-younger compatriot to win his third Commonwealth Games men’s singles gold in Glasgow on Sunday.
World number 1 Srikanth went into the summit clash as the favourite, having beaten the 35-year-old Chong Wei rather easily in the mixed team final a few days ago. Questions were also being asked over the fitness and motivation of the Malaysian ahead of the final.
And when Srikanth came back from a 0-5 deficit in the opening game to take a 11-9 lead in the first game, the Indian camp must have been hoping to clinch both the singles gold for the first time in the history of the Games.
Chong Wei did fight back in the opening game and ran his opponent close but Srikanth managed to pocket the first game and then regained the lead at 9-8 in the second game with a flurry of jump smashes and looked the better player.
But the Malaysian changed gears soon after the break as he started finding the lines with his smashes and showed all his defensive skills to take a 16-13 lead. He never looked back from there on.
The decider was once again a one-sided affair with Chong Wei clearly in a zone and reminding badminton lovers just why he has been such a treat to watch over the years.
He raced to a 7-1 lead and then changed ends with a six point advantage at 11-5. It was always a losing battle for Srikanth thereafter as the Malaysian was in no mood to let go of his grip on that gold medal with his fourth win over the Indian.
Sportspersons are known for their superhuman discipline, single-minded determination and the will to overcome all obstacles. Biographies, films and documentaries have brought to the fore the behind-the-scenes reality of the sporting life. Being up at the crack of dawn, training without distraction, facing injuries with a brave face and recovering to fight for victory are scenes commonly associated with sportspersons.
Racers are no different. Behind their daredevilry lies the same history of dedication and discipline. Cornering on a sports bike or revving up sand dunes requires the utmost physical endurance, and racers invest heavily in it. It helps stave off fatigue and maintain alertness and reaction time. It also helps them get the most out of their racecraft - the entirety of a racer’s skill set, to which years of training are dedicated.
Racecraft begins with something as ‘simple’ as sitting on a racing bike; the correct stance is the key to control and manoeuvre the bike. Riding on a track – tarmac or dirt is a great deal different from riding on the streets. A momentary lapse of concentration can throw the rider into a career ending crash.
Physical skill and endurance apart, racers approach a race with the same analytical rigour as a student appearing in an exam. They conduct an extensive study of not just the track, but also everything around it - trees, marshal posts, tyre marks etc. It’s these reference points that help the racer make braking or turning decisions in the frenzy of a high-stakes competition.
The inevitability of a crash is a reality every racer lives with, and seeks to internalise this during their training. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, racers are trained to keep their eyes open to help the brain make crucial decisions to avoid collision with other racers or objects on the track. Racers that meet with accidents can be seen sliding across the track with their heads held up, in a bid to minimise injuries to the head.
But racecraft is, of course, only half the story. Racing as a profession continues to confound many, and racers have been traditionally misunderstood. Why would anyone want to pour their blood, sweat and tears into something so risky? Where do racers get the fearlessness to do laps at mind boggling speed or hurtle down a hill unassisted? What about the impact of high speeds on the body day after day, or the monotony of it all? Most importantly, why do racers race? The video below explores the question.
The video features racing champions from the stable of TVS Racing, the racing arm of TVS Motor Company, which recently completed 35 years of competitive racing in India. TVS Racing has competed in international rallies and races across some of the toughest terrains - Dakar, Desert Storm, India Baja, Merzouga Rally - and in innumerable national championships. Its design and engineering inputs over the years have also influenced TVS Motors’ fleet in India. You can read more about TVS Racing here.
This article has been produced by Scroll Brand Studio on behalf of TVS Racing and not by the Scroll editorial team.