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28 Aug, 2020
Trupthi Murgunde, former badminton player, coach, mentor, commentator, fashion model, mom and so much more! She wears many a hat, and she does them all with elan, unhurried and with a sense of grace.
Sitting down for a late evening interview, in the middle of a chaotic week packed in with so many conversations and commitments and yet staying completely at calm, takes a fair bit of poise. And right off the bat, as you settle down into the conversation, you realize why she is able to handle everything with such ease and panache.
The sense of calm about her is just so comforting!
Recently conferred with the very prestigious Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sports, she becomes the first badminton player to be given the award and joins some of the finest Indian sportspersons in this elite club of Dhyan Chand Awardees. She’s been busy dabbling in multiple commitments – responding to congratulatory messages, work, family, and rehearsals for the upcoming virtual award ceremony.
We start the conversation talking about the very beginning of her badminton journey, and it goes almost three decades back in the early 90s when she first started playing sports. It wasn’t just badminton that she was interested in, like most kids that age, she simply wanted to play. Anything and everything. Including of course badminton.
And it was the impetus from her mom, to join a summer camp at a nearby facility that set into motion a long and successful badminton career. As they walked in for an admission, she was turned away for the lack of open slots in the badminton program. She was given the option of playing hockey, and she did!
“it was after about a month or two of playing hockey, that I was called back in by the badminton coach, saying they had a slot available, and ever since that day badminton has been my life,” recalls Trupti.
She was a state u-10 champion and won at every subsequent age level before triumphing at the national & international levels.
Listening to her story, one cannot help but think that Trupti Murgunde – Badminton Champion, was something that was just meant to be. And when you ask her about being the destiny’s child in a sense, she says “I totally believe in destiny, because this has happened with me not just once, rather it has happened multiple times.”
She recounts of the societal pressure that stood as a giant hurdle before her, and the lengths to which she, and her parents had to go through just to even get her to tournaments.
“I even had an ultimatum from some of the elderly people in the family, that if I must either choose home or badminton,”
“But my parents, especially my mom, stood behind me like a rock. She herself being from the sports background was ambitious for me and made sure I was given all the opportunities to grow & succeed in the sport of my choosing!”
Coming from Pune, Trupti always had a badminton culture to shelter her, but also a badminton pedigree to live up to! There was the great Bombay-Pune rivalry of those times and of course Maharashtra, back then produced some of the finest of Indian players. And it was this culture of badminton excellence that helped her journey.
“The level of competition was so high when I played in Maharashtra, that I could easily make the transition from the state level to the national & international level with ease,”
Lasting well over two decades, Trupti’s international career has been both illustrious and long! And sure, there are ups & downs in every athlete’s life. So, when I ask her about any possible regrets or goals that have remained unfulfilled. And in her characteristic calm demeanour she says, none whatsoever! She is complete at peace and satisfied with her playing career, and now looks forward to shaping some young ones as a coach, mentor, and selector.
“One always wishes that certain things were available in your playing career, things like sports science and so one, but in terms of regrets there are none,” says Trupti.
She’s made a seamless transition from being a player to that of being a coach. Five years into coaching and mentoring, she believes that we are now on the right track to develop a lineage of sporting excellence that will firmly establish India as one of the truly established entities in the world of badminton.
Her work with Khelo India has takes her to the very grassroots of talent in the country, and she believes that we now have the infrastructure, vision and commitment to plan for the long run and not just look at the next Olympic cycle alone.
“We are already taking about 2024 and 2028 – that is the long-term vision that is needed, and that is what will produce the champions of tomorrow!”
Finally, talking about the Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement, she says that there is a whole gamut of emotions she feels! From a sense of appreciation, to validation, to feeling humbled at joining the ranks of India’s finest sportspersons.
But above all, she believes this also acts as a new beginning, wherein she can refocus her vision and energies onto the next big goals of her life!
When I ask her, if this award constitutes a recognition of her entire life’s journey and work. She reminds me very earnestly that she has a long way to go before she’s done.
And you just have to look back at her badminton career to find proof, that it is indeed the case. Never one to rely on brute power, she conquered all and sundry before her with skill, artistry, and a touch of grace. Just the same way she negotiates all questions that I have for her!
A measure of the ease & eloquence that she embodies is that well past my allocated time, I am not even three-quarters through my prepared set of questions. I am half tempted to keep the conversation going, but then remind myself that just like she has many more conquests to make, there will be many more opportunities for me to come back and seek answers & insights from her.
For now, wishing this fantastic champion and ambassador of the sport – the very best for the lifetime of success that the Dhyan Chand Award signifies!