The fifth edition of The Annapurna Post International Corporate Badminton (ICB) held between July 23 and 28 was widely held as a big success. There were a total of 85 games, with 422 national and international players competing in 10 categories: men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, under-19 junior men and junior women singles, men’s executive singles and doubles, and finally men’s corporate singles and doubles. Besides the players from Nepal there were also participants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and East Timor. In term of prize money, this is the biggest badminton tournament in Nepal, with more than Rs 2 million worth of prizes.
In the case of the Nepali players, for the final competition in Kathmandu the organizers had conducted six state-level selection events, with only the winners and the runner-ups progressing. The covered hall of the National Sports Council, Tripureshwor hosted the finals.
“There is no doubt that this competition has raised the level of the game in Nepal. It will be of great benefit for our national and regional players in the long run,” says Sudam Sijapati, Head of Human Resources, Annapurna Media Network. “With players coming from different countries, it has also helped boost sports tourism in Nepal,” he adds.
In this context, APEX talked to the winners of men’s singles and women’s singles, Dipesh Dhami and Mahoor Shahzed respectively, each of whom won 23.33 grams of gold.
The 21-year-old Mahoor Shahzed from Pakistan first held the badminton racket when she was only 12. Her father, who played in National Junior level, is her biggest influence. “He trained me and made me play with other kids,” says Shahzed. “Later, he even hired a coach.”
Groomed by her father and her coach, Shahzed found success at a very young age. At 13, she won her first title—the under-19 National Level Badminton Competition held in Pakistan. “It encouraged me and my family. From then, my family motivated me to be more passionate about the game,” says Shahzed. “They wanted me to be a world-class badminton player.” Training then became a habit for her and Shahzed is now one of the top ranked players in Pakistan.
She enjoys engaging in long rallies, as she believes stamina is her real strength. Even though she has an attacking mindset, she rarely likes to unleash a smash. “I only smash if I can kill a point,” says Shahzed.
Shahzed’s first visit to Nepal in 2016 wasn’t fruitful. She had failed to win the International Badminton Series organized by Nepal Badminton Association. As she aims to represent Pakistan in the 2020 Olympics, she has shifted all her focus to badminton. Recently, after completing her Bachelors degree, she decided to leave her studies for a while. “I need to prepare for the Olympics. For this I need to play many games and in many tournaments,” says Shahzed.
In the ICB this time, only one opponent managed to score 15 points against her in a set. Shahzed says she didn’t feel any pressure in any of the matches she played.
Born in 1997, Nepal APF Club shuttler Dipesh Dhami was committed to badminton at a very young age. Currently in his early 20s, Dhami already has incredible credentials. As of now, many regard him as an experienced player who has firmly established himself in the Nepali national team.
In 2017, Dhami teamed up with Shova Gauchan, and the duo won the mixed doubles title at the Yonex Sunrise Pakistan International Series in Islamabad. In the same year, Dhami became the lone Nepali player to reach the men’s singles quarter-finals of the Nepal International Series. For his achievements, Nepal Sports Journalists Forum nominated Dhami in the male category for the Pulsar Sports Award in 2018.
Dhami is a regular at international and national Badminton competitions. In the ICB men’s singles finals, he defeated his opponent with an astonishing score line of 21-11, 21-10.
“I felt very comfortable because the opponent was making many mistakes,” says Dhami. “When I saw him repeat his mistakes, I took full advantage.” The win brought Dhami his second men’s singles title in ICB, the first being in the tournament’s first edition.