Who is Anmol Kharb, Indian badminton's new golden girl?

The 17-year-old has become the toast of the nation after winning the decider singles in the final of the Asian Team Badminton Championship

Anmol Kharb (photo: BAI)
Anmol Kharb (photo: BAI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Ever since the India women’s team scripted history with their first gold medal in the Asian Team Badminton Championship in Selangor, Malaysia on Sunday, a 17-year-old rookie named Anmol Kharb has turned out to be a much-Googled name. And with good reason.

The superlative performance of P.V. Sindhu & Co. in the tournament, which saw them shrug off heavyweights like China, Kong Kong and Japan on the way to the final, could have ended with a silver but for some nerves of steel from this girl from Faridabad. With the final locked at 2-2, Anmol stunned everyone with her dominating performance against Pornpicha Choeikeewong in the third singles, which helped India keep its date with gold.

The level of curiosity around Anmol, whose name (meaning priceless) lends itself easily to hyperbole, is understandable. It is too early to say whether she can be a worthy successor to Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, but her performance graph in recent months has made the badminton fraternity sit up and take notice.

Pulella Gopichand, chief coach of the national badminton team and not a man given to overt displays of emotion, was effusive about the special talent who became a national champion despite not being a product of any well-known academy. ‘’Anmol is special. To play the deciding tie in a big rubber needs some guts. It just needs a huge amount of confidence. It shows what you are made of.’’

Speaking to the media after the final, a tired Anmol said: "I am very happy that we have won the gold medal for the very first time. My whole team and I are very happy to get the gold. There was no pressure on me because either it was gold or silver. But if it’s gold, it will be a good thing for us. I was in full flow. I was very confident while playing.’’

Born in 2007, a year after a young Saina clinched her first U-19 national title, Anmol began playing badminton at six, having developed an interest in badminton after growing up on Saina's exploits and tried her hands at the sport while studying at Dayanand Public School in Faridabad.

Anmol was then shifted from Faridabad to Noida by her parents, where she joined Sunrise Shuttlers Academy. Her mother Rajbala Kharb has been extremely supportive in Anmol’s journey so far, while she is currently under the tutelage of coach Kusum Singh at the academy in Noida.

Congratulating the Indian team on the triumph, Badminton Association of India secretary Sanjay Mishra said in a statement: “It is a proud moment for all of us. It also underlined the depth of badminton talent in India and we are confident that this bunch of players will win many more titles in the coming years.”

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