Blog by : Anuradha Guha
Aparna Popat is an Indian ex-badminton player. She was born in Mumbai on 18th January,1978. Her parents were Lalji Popat and Heena Popat. She finished her schooling in J.B. Petit High School and pre-university course in Mount Carmel College, Bangalore. She got a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the Mumbai University.
Anil Pradhan, a National Champion, was the first to recognize the spark of talent in the 8-yr old Aparna. He was approached by her parents for her training. She started playing from 1986. She was taught many essential skills under his tutelage.
To further expand her capabilities, she shifted to the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, Bangalore in 1994. Here, she received training under the acclaimed badminton player, Prakash Padukone himself. To enrich her experience further, she shifted to the Sports Authority of India training center at Kengeri, Bangalore. Here, Gangula Prasad was the coach and mentor.
In 1997, Aparna won her first Senior National title, in Hyderabad. In 1998, she was the winner of the French Open. Also in the same year, she won a silver medal for her performance in the Commonwealth Games held in Kuala Lampur. Aparna went on to win the Senior Nationals for 8 consecutive years. She won her last Senior Nationals in 2006 in Bangalore after defeating 15-year old Saina Nehwal.
Aparna Popat won the ‘Arjuna Award’ in 2005. Despite facing many hurdles in her career, she made a place for herself in the sports field by sheer determination and courage. Hers, is an inspiring story.
Aparna was one of the 17 participants to be selected, and the only Indian at that, to be chosen for the Global Sports Mentoring Program, an initiative taken by Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State and espnW. This programe was undertakes by her with vision of empowering women and girls throughout the world.
The highlights of Aparna Popat’s achievements are- Participation in 2 Olympic Games, 1 Asian Games, 1 Silver medal at the World Junior Championships in 1996 and 4 medals in the 3 Commonwealth Games appearances. She was quoted saying the following about the Commonwealth Games- “The Commonwealth Games mixed doubles is challenging because \Great Britain has a strong team. So mixed doubles will be a little dicey, but I believe we have a shot a Gold Medal across five categories.
Popat’s career was greatly influenced by the co9ntribution of her coaches. When her first coach, Anil Pradhan saw her play, he told her parents-“Give me this girl to train and I will put her on the map of India.” Popats also advises parents to trust their children’s coaches. She says- “It is important to trust coaches and their plans. Any negative comments on the coach or the politics of the sport in the child’s presence may have an adverse effect on his or her growth.” She also highlights the important role parents play in their children’s lives. She was quoted saying- “What parents say touches a chord with kids, which is why you have to choose your words carefully while communicating with children.”