Indian badminton has been on a dream run at the BWF World Championship as the country’s shuttlers have managed to win at least one medal in each edition of the tournament ever since Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta ended a 28-year wait in 2011.
Before them only the legendary Prakash Padukone had managed to bag a medal for India at the prestigious event back in 1983. Saina Nehwal and Anup Sridhar had both come within striking distance of a medal by making it to the quarter-finals in the earlier editions.
Here’s a look at all the medals India has won so far at the badminton world championship.
1983 – Men’s singles bronze
Having lost in the quarter-finals in the first two editions of the world championships, Prakash Padukone wasn’t considered the favourite to win the title in Copenhagen, Denmark. Then, the world championship was held once in three years and the former All England champion had been the top seed three years ago in Indonesia, where he lost in the last eight against local star Hadiyanto.
Padukone was seeded fifth and reached the quarter-finals without dropping a game. Having lost both his earlier quarter-finals to Indonesian opponents, the Indian would have been happy to see a Chinese player on the other side of the court and duly packed off Luan Jin 15-3, 15-9 to ensure India its first medal in the competition.
Padukone looked good to even make it to the final when he took the first game 15-9 against eventual champion Icuk Sugiarto of Indonesia in the semi-finals. But he seemed to have lost steam thereafter losing the next two 15-7, 15-1.
He was knocked out again in the quarter-final stage by his friend Morten Frost in the 1985 edition and could not cross the first round two years later.
2011 – Women’s doubles bronze
No one, not even the ardent supporters of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa would have seen this coming. The eyes of Indian badminton fans were set on a young Saina Nehwal to end India’s world championship medal drought with the mixed doubles combination of Jwala and V Diju rated as the rank outsiders.
The unseeded Indian women’s doubles combination created a flutter early on by upsetting second seeds Cheng Wen Hsing and Chien Yu Chin of Chinese Taipei in the second round but even then a podium finish looked far and away.
But Indian women’s doubles most successful pairing held their nerves when it mattered the most as they overturned a game and 4-8 deficit in the next round against Hong Kong’s 11th seeds Lok Yan Poon and Ying Suet Tse. They then assured themselves of a medal with another come from behind win over 12th seeds Vita Marissa and Nadya Melati of Indonesia.
They were no match for the Chinese fifth seeds Tian Qing and Zhou Yunlei in the semi-finals but they had shown that Indians can find their way to the podium on the world’s biggest stage.
2013 – Women’s singles bronze
In an edition in which three Indians came close to finishing on the podium, the unlikeliest of the three came home with a medal.
Nehwal, the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist, had reached yet another quarter-final rather easily but an upset stomach put paid to her hopes of winning a medal as she lost to Bae Yeon-Ju in straight games. Meanwhile Kashyap could not convert a match point in the second game against third seed Du Pengyu in the men’s singles quarter-finals to bow out.
While the experienced campaigners wilted under pressure and health issues, PV Sindhu punched above her weight in her very first world championship appearance. She upset second seed Yihan Wang in straight games in the third round despite the former world champion managing to save three match points in the second game and having a game point of her own.
Sindhu then accounted for another Chinese player in the next round on their home turf, packing off seventh seed Shixian Wang 21-18, 21-17 to become the first Indian women’s singles player to win a world championship medal. She was, however, outplayed in the semi-finals by eventual champion Ratchanok Intanon.
2014 – Women’s singles bronze
If the first world championship medal was unexpected, a repeat the next year was an even bigger surprise. Sindhu was on the brink of elimination in the third round when she faced two match points in the second game against Bae Yeon Ju. She not only saved them but clinched the next four points to force a decider. In the third and final game, the Indian was guilty of wasting four match points before she was forced to save one herself. But she held her nerves to then wrap the match in an hour and 15 minutes.
It was yet another marathon, this time for an hour and 26 minutes, against Shixian Wang that made her the first Indian to win two world championship medals. But the efforts of those two days wore her down in the semi-finals as Carolina Marin went on to win the first of her three world titles.
This world championship edition also saw Nehwal quit the Gopichand Academy soon after returning from Denmark and move to Bengaluru.
2015 – Women’s singles silver
Indonesia has been Nehwal’s happy hunting ground and it is no surprise that her first world Championship medal came in Jakarta while Sindhu’s luck with marathon matches finally ran out in the quarter-finals against Sung Ji Hyun.
Nehwal came into the tournament in top form and was seeded second. She raced through the first two rounds to reach yet another quarter-final, the hurdle that she hadn’t managed to cross in five earlier attempts. But her never-say-die attitude was on display against Yihan Wang as she fought back in the decider with a 16-18 deficit to win five of the next six points and reach the semi-finals.
In the semis, local hope Lindaweni Fanetri was no match for the rampaging Indian but the former world No 1 could do nothing against the guile of defending champion Marin in the final.
2017 – Women’s singles silver and bronze
Sindhu came to Glasgow determined to change the colour of her two world championship medals while Nehwal was just getting back to her best after a career-threatening knee injury and had little expectation from the tournament.
The 2015 silver medallist was unseeded and hence had a tough draw. She, however, packed off second seed Sung Ji Hyun of Korea in straight games in the second round and then staved off a vociferous crowd and the strong challenge of local favouite Kristy Gilmour in an hour and 14 minutes to reach her second consecutive semi-final. She looked good to make her second successive final after taking the opening game against Nozomi Okuhara but clearly ran out of steam in the next two games and had to be satisfied with a bronze medal.
In the top half, Sindhu suffered a scare against Ngan Yi Cheung of Hong Kong in the third round before decimating two upcoming Chinese stars – Sun Yu and Chen Yufei – in straight games to reach her first final.
The epic final between Sindhu and Okuhara would be talked about for ages, for the grit and determination both the players showed in that one hour 50 minute encounter that was decided in the Japanese player’s favour on second match point. Sindhu had finally managed to change the colour of her medal but would have left Scotland with a heavy heart, ruing a missed opportunity to create history.
2018 – Women’s singles silver
Sindhu’s biggest strength has been to raise the level of her game for big tournaments. Having lost the Commonwealth Games final to Nehwal in April, the three-time world championship medallist knew that her season would most probably be defined by the way she played in August with the world championship and Asian Games being held in quick succession.
Unlike in the past, third seed Sindhu raced through the initial rounds and had not dropped a single game, including in the hard fought semi-final win over Akane Yamaguchi, before reaching her second successive final.
But in the summit clash, she came across an rampaign Marin, who had bulldozed her opponents till the quarter-finals. The Spaniard was pushed beyond the hour mark in the semi-final but at no stage did she looked deflated against local favourite He Bingjiao in Nanjing.
Marin was fast, precise and did not give the Indian any opportunity to find her footing in the 46-minute summit clash as she clinched her third world title.