The name Ajay Jayaram may ring a bell to only the most ardent of badminton followers in India. But after his recent exploits in the 2015 Korea Open, where he reached the final only to bow out to the top-ranked Chen Long, his name now has a better standing on search engines globally!
Out of action for a year and a half due to injury, wherein he needed surgical repair to his shoulder, the Mumbai lad has had a harrowing time. But these setbacks gave him time to reflect, only to come out stronger.
"The best way is to go forward and accept it, start again," he revealed his mantra.
He worked hard on his game, for which he credits his coach Tom John while chief coach Pullela Gopichand has encouraging words too, praising Ajay’s confidence and marking him as a genuine contender to make it to the Olympics next year.
His excellent performances have indeed brought him into contention for Rio 2016 and should provide stiff competition to much-fancied compatriots Srikanth Kidambi and Parupalli Kashyap.
"It is a great period for Indian badminton," Jayaram says. "There are many strong players, pushing each other to limit. It builds healthy competition."
Ajay Jayaram became only the second Indian to reach the final of a Super Series event after his terrific run in Seoul. There is no shame in losing to the number one ranked player and even more so when he made the world take notice of him. His renaissance actually began in the latter half of 2014 when he won the Dutch Open. He defended his crown in wonderful fashion in 2015 by beating his opponent in the final in just 34 minutes! He has steadily climbed to number 26 in the BWF Rankings and has showcased his ability to punch above his weight since his return.
"The confidence and self-belief is very crucial. I’m on the right course," he reckons.
Talking of Olympics, Ajay narrowly missed the bus to London in 2012 and it did create a bit of self-doubt in his mind. This was another battle he faced along with the one to retain full fitness. With the odds stacked against him, the man with the rockstar mane has projected himself as the dark horse in the race for Rio and looks set to give the big names a run for their money. If he does manage to pull it off, it would be a near-impossible feat and definitely one of the most inspirational stories to come out from India’s sporting arena.