By Amit Kumar Das
New Delhi, Dec 22 (PTI) For a seasoned campaigner like H S Prannoy, a quarterfinal finish at the World Championships would not count for much under normal circumstances but it is nothing short of a medal this time given all that the shuttler has endured in the last three years.
Prannoy has been fighting two battles -- one against opponents on court and the other against his own body.
A former world no.8, Prannoy was diagnosed with a gastroesophageal reflux disease (a digestive ailment in which stomach acid or bile irritates the food pipe lining) during the 2018 World Championships.
The condition took a lot of time to heal as he struggled with his training and performance.
Once he somewhat recovered from it, the Indian was hit by coronavirus in November 2020 and ever since, he has been battling the after-affects of the infection, which continued to affect his game and forced him to look for alternative treatment.
"Post COVID, the lining of my lungs got inflamed, I had constant cough and I had to rule everything out, meaning, if there was any muscle related injury," Prannoy told PTI.
"I've been always in pain. When there are long rallies, when you are gasping for breath, you are pushing the muscles and air flow. There is friction in the lining, it hurts."
Prannoy said he met a specialist in September and he can feel a difference now.
"We confirmed that it was an inflammation in the lung, medication was not recommended, only way out is natural healing. So I tried breathing exercises, made changes to my diet, which anyway I had to as I had gut issues earlier," he said.
"The breathing sessions helped, it made a difference and I am 30-40 per cent better, I have been feeling better."
It reflected in his performance as notched up a morale-boosting win over Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark to make the quarterfinals of the Indonesia Masters.
"It is getting better, I tried different things from September and I can see the difference in my game and other aspects of my physical condition, I can play longer matches."
Talking about his win over Axelsen, Prannoy said: "That felt good, it has been long that I played a good match. He has been extremely consistent. There were patches when it could have ended in straight games but I hung on and did what needs to be done."
Prannoy said he suffered a back injury ahead of the European circuit events and it affected his performance.
"Europe could have been better, but before going, I had a back sprain, I couldn't play well. I couldn't cancel my tickets as I had booked them ... My back was in bad shape but in Indonesia, it was better."
At the World Championships, Prannoy shocked world no 9 NG Ka Long Angus in the first round, got the better off Malaysia's Daren Liew and then beat world no 11 Rasmus Gemke.
He lost to eventual champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore in the quarterfinals.
"It was a tough draw, I played some good matches in the first few rounds. It was going to be tough to win a medal from the bottom half but I'm proud of what I could do this week..," said Prannoy, who was on the verge of pulling out due to lack of sponsors and funds.
"Next few months, it will be like that...I have to take things in my stride and continue to trust the process. I need to be careful with what I eat and drink, monitored constantly."
Prannoy said his only target now is to qualify for the Paris Olympics.
"I plan to play India open and Syed Modi International but my main target now is the 2024 Paris Olympics. It is clear from my end, I have to trust myself, good victories or bad losses, continue training and results will come," he signed off. PTI ATK PM
By Amit Kumar Das