How a teenager from Darchula is making his name in national badmintonPrince Dahal has the potential to emerge as a new badminton star and he may not take too long for it.
He is just 16 and studies in the ninth grade, but Prince Dahal has established himself as a top-notch Nepali shuttler in the domestic circuit.
His achievement over the last year speaks volumes of his potential. The left-hander so far has won almost all the national-level age-group tournaments—to say precisely four titles—while also being a thorn in the eyes of many senior national players in the open category. He may not yet have landed a major title in open category but had a sniff at it finishing second and third. In September last year, the teenager claimed the Dubai International Series title as well to add to his growing list of achievements.
A native of Khalanga in Darchula, Dahal rocked the badminton fraternity in April when he stunned the-then Nepal No. 1 Ratnajit Tamang during the team event of the eighth National Games in Dang. Apart from a team bronze medal, he also struck a bronze medal in the singles event during the nationals.
“My target is to become Nepal number 1. But having said that I know very well I need to work really hard to achieve the goal,” said the shuttler, who represents Silk Group in tournaments he participates in. Dahal said his father, Narayan, motivated him to take up the sport.
National team coach Sudip Yonjan, who is training the 16-year-old at the national team camp, said: “He is very young and energetic. The way he plays and works in training and his performance on the court is sure to make him Nepal number 1 in future. He even has the potential to win gold at an international level. He likes to play with aggression. If he continues to grow the way he is doing now, he will surely be one of the greats in Nepali badminton,” said Yonjan who also praised the support from the shuttler’s family.
Dahal was lured towards the game when he was just seven. It was his father who was instrumental in drawing him to the game. “My father is an avid sports lover who could play any game possible in the local surroundings. It was him who taught me the basics of badminton in the early days,” recalled Dahal. The shuttlers said he got the feel of competition playing local tournaments in Dhangadi and Mahendranagar until he was 10-year-old.
Dahal believes his badminton dream took a remarkable turn in 2013 when his parents decided to bring him to the Kathmandu Valley. “I believe my parents admitted me in Grade III at the Nepal Police School in Sanga [Bhaktapur] with dual purpose: to pursue my education as well as realize my dream to play top-level badminton. The Police school had better badminton facility and proper coaches where I could hone my skills,” said Dahal.
After studying for one year at the Police School, he got an opportunity to compete in the district-level tournament in Kathmandu. The end result: he struck gold medals in both U-14 and U-16 age-group (singles) categories while agonizingly missing out on the U-19 title as he lost in the final. He was just 12 then. “That success fuelled my ambitions even more,” recalled Dahal who is living with his maternal uncle, grandfather and elder sister in Satdobato for the last three years.
“The victories in the very first participation in a tournament after arriving to Kathmandu motivated me to work even harder. My father predicted I would excel in the game after my wins at the age group. He was more than happy for his decision to admit me at the school that had covered hall facility,” said Dahal.
Since there are very few age-group tournaments, Dahal hauled himself to compete in the national-level open category competitions at the tender age of 13. “Playing against the vaunted senior players helped me grow as a player. Playing against the top-notch shuttlers improved by game even better,” said Dahal.
It was the same experience that played a big part in his winning the school-level National U-14 Championship in 2016. “The victory instilled confidence in me that I could one day be Nepal No. 1 player,” he said.
He never misses an opportunity to compete in open category national events while also simultaneously playing the U-17 and U-19 age-group tournaments. He shocked the-then Nepal No 3 Bishnu Katwal on his way to winning the singles bronze medal during the 2017 Krishna Mohan National Open Championships.
“I see a tough challenge from (Dipesh) Dhami and Tamang dai. But I am aware that I need to train really hard and focus on my game to be able to beat them consistently in the future,” said Dahal, the current No 9 ranked shuttler.
Last year, he went through one-year training at the Banthongyord Badminton School in Thailand which resulted in him missing his entire Grade IX academic session. But he has no qualms over that as he is repeating his Grade IX education this year. “My time in Thailand has been very productive. I learnt quite a few things there,” he added.
With Nepal set to host the 13th South Asian Games on December 1-10, Dahal is focusing to land at least a bronze medal in the singles event. But the teenager laments on the poor facility that could hinder his dream. “At times, we do not even have standard shuttlecocks to play with during our training. We desperately need quality coaches, proper facilities like standard mat and shuttlecocks to prepare ourselves better in the lead up to the Games,” added Dahal.Dahal takes Chinese badminton star Lin Dan ashis idol. Dan is the two-time Olympic Games gold medallist as well as five-timeworld champion. Although it may sound ridiculous for a Nepali shuttler, Dahalhas a dream to climb up to Top 10 in the world rankings. He also harbours hopeof playing in the Olympic Games. That may appear a far cry for now but hedefinitely has the potential to someday rule the domestic badminton circuit.