Uganda’s Ekiring gave some jitters to No.11 seed HS Prannoy before the Indian recovered in time to ensure his third round Men’s Singles place at the TOTAL BWF World Championships today. Ekiring was gracious in defeat.
“I had my chances, but didn’t take them. He’s more experienced than me. I was under pressure and he was pushing me.”
Asked what hopes he held for badminton in African countries, Ekiring mused aloud on the future possibility of an African World champion. As the continent’s most prominent Men’s Singles representative, Ekiring is breaking some stereotypes.
“People should know that Africans can play badminton,” he said.
“I know I cannot be a World champion – but maybe someone from Africa can… I’m thinking about it, because you need money to develop the sport. You need to be patient. India now have a lot of good players, five or 10 in the top 100, that’s an achievement. That’s what I’d like to do in Africa.”
Ekiring has seen adversity since he was a child. He lost his mother when he was 10 - she was killed in an accident – and was raised by his grandmother, who sent him to the US to live with an aunt. His skill at badminton would help him earn a place in the BWF Training Centre in Saarbrucken, Germany, after which he applied to university in the Netherlands, where he now lives with his foster family. He trains with the Dutch national team during the day and attends university in the evenings.
The accident in 2009 happened when he was on a cycle. A car sped past a red light and knocked him down. He was left with multiple injuries – broken arms, fractured shin, bruised ribs and ruptured ligaments. He was in hospital for four days and spent all of 2010 in rehab. Getting back on his feet – not to speak of badminton – was obviously a difficult task.
“Everybody told me I cannot play badminton any longer. But when you have good people around you who always give you support, always motivating you, who are always positive, you can come back. You need nice people around you who believe in you.
“It was difficult to come back. Mentally, you might think you are a little good at the game, but physically you have to start from zero. I had to learn to walk. I needed crutches and knee braces. It was not easy. For me it’s an achievement to be able to play. I feel proud to play again at this level and enjoy myself.”
Ekiring is aiming to qualify for his second Olympic Games. Another ambition is to get back into the top 100. The winner of the Zambia International and Nigeria International last year reflects on how badminton had helped him in his journey so far:
“Badminton taught me to be a better person, in the way you talk to people, the way you can get over depression. I learnt a lot of things: to be patient, to be nice to everybody, and not to be depressed. Because depression kills.”