It all started when Krishna Kumar S, 2004 world champion who played alongside George Thomas, started the academy to train young talents in 1998. His daughter, Parvathi was the first and only student to enroll in its inception.
Friends of Krishnakumar sent their children to the academy’s camps for fun, but little did they know what i-Sports was going to become.
This is the story of struggle, passion, wisdom and an undying burning desire that has faced many a test of time.
The Beginning of i-Sports
The coach’s primary pillar of support has consistently been Parvathi’s mother, Sindhu M. While the academy was still in its nascent stages, she stood as the family’s sole breadwinner and was the creative mind behind its name.
“The ‘i’ in i-SPORTS stands for ‘innovation’,” explains Parvathi. “My mother has always fervently championed my father’s pursuits, firmly believing in his patience and teaching methodology. She remains the academy’s steadfast backbone, its investor, and its most enthusiastic cheerleader.”
A professional in electronic and telecommunication engineering, Krishnakumar boasts the accolade of a nine-time national champion, representing both Kerala and Karnataka for over 25 years.
Fueled by an unwavering passion, he embarked on the academy’s journey, eventually passing the torch to young Parvathi, whose early sports prowess showcased her innate talent. It’s safe to say that Parvathi’s affinity for badminton draws inspiration from her devoted coach and loving father.
School, Sports and Studies
Embracing her sporty nature, Parvathi often found herself labelled a tomboy by classmates and teachers during her school days.
“I held the title of school topper until 4th grade, just before badminton seized my heart. Those early years, my teachers failed to grasp the difficulties my family was enduring. With only two sets of uniforms, juggling books for different subjects proved strenuous. I even clung onto a worn name tag for four long years,” she reminisces, her school memories vividly resurfacing.
“We were not entirely poor, but we were keen on saving money and doing it smartly. I was constantly teased and punished for unpolished shoes and the broken name tag. And being a sporty kid, I was categorised as a tom boy by everyone around me.
“All of this made me angry but I kept dealing with it the best way I knew how to, by channelling the aggressiveness into badminton,” she says.
However, the tide began to shift when she emerged victorious in tournaments!
In 2008, Parvathi clinched her inaugural title, spotlighting i-Sports. Curiosity swirled as the cups piled up, bringing attention from fellow academies, coaches, and players. This young girl who swept the trophies was an enigma.
But with the attention came a lot of hardships and responsibilities too. “I had to train extra hard, study even harder and wear extra long shorts to keep nosy relatives at bay – anything and everything to make sure I kept playing.
“This also meant I was being called on to the school stage to collect prizes. Suddenly, the tomboy, rowdy, badminton girl was someone everyone wanted to be friends with,” she chuckles.
“But my teachers would still keep making fun of me in front of the whole class for being the ‘extra testosterone’ girl, and punish me with wooden scales when my grades dipped. But it never made me any less rebellious. I’ve always hated being called a boy, I just consider myself as a girl who was and will keep being bold!
“In fact, I had a rep for being aggressive, and other players were conscious enough to not trigger it,” she says with a pleasant smile that contrasts the rebellious image she had crafted.
A Different Career Path
“In 2012, the moment I had anticipated and prepared for my entire life up to that point arrived. However, the 2014 board exam preparation and unapologetic sports, politics left us sidelined,” Parvathi reflects, her tone hinting at lingering traces of hurt.
Unable to stomach the setback, she enrolled in Architecture school.
Yet, three years into the course, Parvathi found herself grappling with an identity crisis.
“I felt an itch. It took my dumbass three years to realise that once you taste a sport, it lives with you. I didn’t want to be someone in their 40s, looking back at bygone days, haunted by the perennial question – What if I had tried?”
“But luckily, my parents and my college friends, who I call family, were all super supportive,” she says accompanied by a subtle sigh of relief.
While her parents acknowledged and respected her passion for the sport, they suggested she complete the course since she was already halfway through – a sensible Plan B.
The idea resonated with her, and she committed to it. Her prowess earned her #2 rank across VTU, securing her position as both college and class topper for five consecutive years.
Despite receiving multiple scholarships and lucrative work opportunities abroad, she was ready to relinquish all that and take on the court once again.
“I’m grateful to have learnt that passion powers money, passion overrides hate, passion is success. If you have passion, everything else will fall into place,” she asserts, laying the foundation for the philosophy that guided her life’s journey.
COVID’s Cold Blow
“5 years of architecture sculpted the best version of myself. I made friends I call family and had incredible teachers who guided me to be the person I am today. Fuelled with positivity, I returned to training.
“For two years, I survived on a mere four hours of sleep daily, dedicating every waking moment to the court and the gym. My efforts bore fruit, earning me the #16 rank in All India Badminton as per BAI in 2019. I felt the fire. Then came COVID,” Parvathi recalls with a heavy sigh.
The delta variant had her in ICU isolation for 23 days. On the 14th day, Parvathi nearly surrendered to the excruciating agony, even pleading with the doctor to end her suffering.
“That was the first time I saw my father feel so low, my family collapsed completely,” she reveals. “My recovery was termed ‘miraculous’ by my doctor, Ms. Kanchen.”
However, in her own words, her game had dipped and she lost to a junior pair in the 2021 state championship in the very first round.
“I looked at my dad, scared, because I felt I was finished as a player.” she continues. “I felt my organs failing, my body unable to find immunity, and my lungs struggling to cope with the high-intensity sport.”
Upon several medical tests, she found out her DNA had changed. She was on a liquid diet for 8 straight months owing to the lack of digestive enzymes in her system.
“On top of everything I was going through, many even told me to stop being a burden to my family and get married. No one hesitated to body shame me at every step of the way.
“But I used that time to rekindle my architectural prowess. I worked on making our centre better, became an advisor to many of my college friends with firms and extended my help to juniors who wanted to make use of my creative brain,” says Parvathi, who had now shifted her focus completely on rebuilding her mental and physical health.
In January 2022, Parvathi’s path intersected with Dr. Sneha, whom she affectionately dubs a ‘wonder woman’. Serving as the sports psychologist for i-Sports Academy, Dr. Sneha assessed the gravity of Parvathi’s situation and became instrumental in her resurgence.
“She helped me tremendously, giving me a new perspective, one that I didn’t think I was capable of. With the kind of magic she did, it was hard for me to see life the same way again!”
As of 2023, Parvathi proudly claims the #135 spot in the Badminton World Federation rankings. She describes the journey from her lowest point to breaking her own records every day.
“Every international tournament I played after 2022, I carried three pouches of medicines – one for my digestive system, one for my lack of immunity and another for insulin. I was in a state where I would be hospitalised if I had even a bit of ice cream.
“Coaches Vinay Menon and Roy from Team CrossFit Agni played a huge role in my recovery. They understood my condition, very well and pushed me only when they knew I could be pushed. Within 3 months, I had become a beast and this marks the first time I stayed with a gym for over 1.5 years,” she exclaims, reminiscing of all the hurdles she faced to get where she is.
“I am once again at my best self all thanks to Dr. Sneha, my friend and partner Riya and everyone who extended their undying support,” says Parvathi, grateful for how her life has turned out.
From being suicidal in 2021, today, Parvathi glows as an architect, a globally accredited sports scientist, coach and a professional badminton player.
As director of i-Sports, she has interacted and worked with over 963 parents, 2000 students, 32 officials and 56 coaches, totaling 16 hour work days for the past 6 months.
“At the end of the day, my father asks me how I feel, and my reply always is that I am on a high,” she laughs. “Everytime he replies ‘That’s how a simple girl transitions into a boss woman’ and that’s when I realise how lucky I am to have such amazing parents.”
Today, i-Sports stands uniquely as India’s sole badminton academy accredited by the prestigious Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy and endorsed by Khelo India.
With a roster of coaches who have etched their names in state, national, and international arenas, i-Sports has fostered an impressive legacy, spawning 15 international players with podium triumphs, propelling 8 Indian team representatives and 2 USA team members, cultivating over 10 national champions, and amassing a collection of 50+ All India medals, 100+ state players, and an aspiring UAE Asian Games competitor poised to vie for Olympic glory in 2024.
“All these remarkable athletes, the ones currently grace the sport’s grand stage—Sai Pratheek, Tanya Hemanth, Ayush R Shetty, to name a few—all trace their origins back to the very foundation of i-Sports,” she gleams with pride.
As Parvathi and i-Sports journey forward, we extend our heartfelt wishes for continued success and resounding achievements on all horizons!
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