Hyderabad: A few years ago, she was limping, having hurt her knee badly on the badminton court, twice over. Subsequent surgeries forced the promising shuttler to switch to doubles, at which she has soldiered on since. Now, Sikki Reddy is jumping about — the Arjuna Award does put a spring in a sportsperson’s step.
“I was jumping all over the floor when I got to know that I was conferred with this year’s Arjuna Award. I was so excited that for a moment I forgot I had a match in the evening,” the giggling 25-year-old told this newspaper on Thursday from China, where she was playing a tournament.
“It took some time to come down from Cloud Nine and regain my focus on the match,” the Hyderabadi added.
Having gone through a roller coaster in her career, Sikki is indeed cherishing the Award. “It’s mixed emotions right now. I really wanted the Arjuna Award... it was one of my dreams, also my Dad’s. I didn’t get it last year and was keeping my fingers crossed this time around since there are so many medallists (from the Commonwealth and Asian Games) who had applied for the Award,” she said.
She won the Commonwealth Games mixed team event gold; snatched a bronze in the women’s doubles and missed a medal at the Asian Games. However, “it was after 32 years that an Indian team had made the quarterfinals at the Asiad,” she says.
Now, she is looking at the 2020 Olympics. “From 2019 April onwards the Olympic qualification starts. Our performance at every tournament will count. I am focused on that. We need to climb into the top 15 to make the Tokyo Games — right now we are at No. 25,” she says.
Sikki has a long list of people to thank. “I would like to dedicate this award to everyone who has helped me in my career. My parents’ support was crucial in overcoming tough times. I am grateful for their patience, especially my Dad who pushes me so much when I am sad or depressed. Gratitude to many others too — I first trained with Govardhan Reddy before moving to Gopichand Sir (national chief coach) when I was 13; all the physios, doctors and trainers, Sanjeev Sir, Vineetha and all the support staff who have helped me,” she says, adding “DC (Deccan Chronicle) too has been so supportive when I was making a comeback. Thank you.”
In her moment of triumph, Sikki recounts the hard blows she has had to deal with. “There are so many ups and downs in my career, also injuries. I was a top player in singles — a national champion in singles and doubles and all the categories. I played the Youth Common-wealth Games finals in 2008 against Saina (Nehwal, former world No.1) and lost so closely. I was part of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games team when a knee injury knocked me down when I was at my peak, taking an year off me. Then, another injury (2012) on the same knee meant two more months were gone. It took so much pain and effort to come here. I was on top and suddenly had become a zero again. I had to work step by step to come back,” she reminisced.
“Those days we didn’t have state-of-the-art medical facilities as also doctors, physios or sponsors to take care of me. I did everything on my own and my family did everything for me. Now there are so many foundations like Go Sports, Olympic Gold Quest who take care of injured sportspersons with good doctors and rehabilitation programs to help them recover quickly. I didn’t have all these at that time.
“It was quite difficult for me to come out of that tough period of injury because no one knew about this injury known as ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) which takes 9 to 12 months to recover. Even I didn’t know about it. Before me, Gopi Sir was the only shuttler who had this surgery. He guided me on how to overcome the rehab sessions and everything,” she said.
Sikki remembers the agonising impacts clearly. “I was playing the Junior Nationals in Nellore on a wooden court — there were no synthetic courts then. One of the courts was broken and when I landed after a jump shot, a chunk came off and I hurt my knee. That year we had Youth Olympics so they didn’t want me to go for surgery. I did some rehab for two months and then went for the Asian Championship which was mandatory qualification for Youth Olympics. I fell down when I was playing Ratchanok Intanon (another world No.1) in the third game. That’s when I twisted my right knee quite badly,” the left-hander recalled.
Now, the pain is gone. Sikki will arrive home on Sunday and leave for Delhi on Monday to report for Tuesday’s Arjuna Awards function “after which I will celebrate in Hyderabad with my family and friends!”...