The story so far
Prakash Padukone was a teenage prodigy who won nine national titles in a row before the All-England in 1980. He came into the tournament at Wembley Arena as the reigning Commonwealth champion and had also won his first "grand slam" titles, the Danish and Swedish Opens; he already had a reputation. Yet the competition was tough; leading the field were the Danes, Morten Frost and Flemming Delfs, the Indonesian Liem Swie King, the defending champion, and the new challengers, the Chinese. And no Indian had ever won an international tournament.
Prakash entered the final -- on March 23, the first time it was being played on a Sunday -- having beaten Frost, by then a good friend, in the semis. He would now face King, against whom he had a poor track record: Played 4, Lost 4. But Prakash had watched King's semi-final, against Delfs, and seen a "strangely diffident King", as he told his biographer Dev Sukumar. He was off to a flier, exploiting King's tentative strokeplay and raced to a 10-0 lead; he dropped three points before taking the game, all in eight minutes. King found his form in the second game and speeded up the play but Prakash, using his deception, kept trying to slow it down. He moved to 11-4, then 13-7 and then 13-10, King snapping at his heels all the while. Sukumar writes: "Then came a slice of luck. The shuttle nibbled the tape and fell on King's side. One service-change later, a tap gave Prakash match point." The rest is history.
"That was one of the turning points not just in my career but for Indian badminton."
- Prakash Padukone
"Prakash showed that by sheer determination and proper planning, Indian sportsperson can become world champions. He was India's first real professional sportsman in both outlook and deeds."
- Novy Kapadia, journalist and historian
The story since
Prakash was in peak form and, though winning the All-England was probably the apex of his career, there were many titles that followed, including the Danish Open that same year and the World Cup the next year followed by a bronze at the World Championship in 1983, and, in 1986, a bronze in the Asian Games.
Touch Play - The Prakash Padukone Story by Dev S Sukumar