Dipankar Bhattacharjee might be an unheard name for this generation but he is indeed one of India’s most celebrated shuttlers during the nineties. During his playing days, Pullela Gopichand, the current chief coach and former All England champion was the second best in terms of rankings in the domestic circuit, as Bhattacharjee had been the number one from 1991 to 1996.
A three-time senior national champion, Dipankar holds one significant record of being the first Indian badminton player to have participated in the Olympics twice – 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Games.
While speaking from his Mumbai home over phone, the 47-year old former international player said, “My performance in outside competitions would have been much better if injury had not forced me to leave the game.” Bhattacharjee had a severe wrist injury following an accident in 1995 and he feels that was the turning point of his career. He bid goodbye to the game in 2004 after taking part in the Senior National Championship in Guwahati, his birth place and the cradle of his badminton career.
Despite staying in Mumbai post his job at Indian Oil, Bhattacharjee has not forgotten his childhood in Guwahati. He recalled, “Whatever achievement and fame, I have earned has been due to my late father. He was the man who introduced me to badminton. I was quite restless in my childhood and my parents were quite worried about my future.”
“So in a bid to change my everyday life, my father started playing with me on a cemented court, adjacent to our residence in Guwahati. He always told me that I could persuade with the sport and achieve something in future,” he added.
While a photograph with legendary British sprinter and 100m gold medal winner, Lindford Christie, one fine morning during Barcelona Olympics was one of Bhattacharjee’s cherished memories, he has another warm story to share.
That was four special years spent at Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy.
“I was the first student of his badminton school. I was there for four years (1994-1998). I probably will be able to remember everything about those days,” described Bhattacharjee with exuberance.
He recalled, “As a coach, Prakash (Sir) was simply magnificent. His observation and rectification process was immaculate. I had weakness in front of nets. He pointed it so fast and corrected it in such manner that I became strong later, playing in front of nets more often. I still cherish his outstanding variety in stroke play in front of nets which had been a myth in world badminton during his playing days.”
Bhattacharjee has started a coaching centre in Mumbai since 2015. Currently there are 60 students in his coaching school. “In December 2014, Prakash Padukone Academy had organized a function with its first batch of students. In the gathering, I told Prakash Sir that whatever I have learnt about badminton from him, I will convey it to my kids in the coaching centre. Training under his tutelage has been one of my biggest gains,” he concluded.