Badminton champ Arjun Pitchaiah no extra
Warangal: In his heydays, the bat in his hand was like a magic wand; hitting a one rupee coin placed anywhere in the opponent’s court with a badminton ball was like a child’s play to him. He is none other than legendary Jammalamadaka Pitchaiah aka Arjun Pitchaiah.
Born to Nagamma and Punnaiah in Kuchipudi of Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh, the origin of the eponymous dance form Kuchipudi, on December 21, 1918 Pitchaiah was an ardent sportsman right from his childhood. He used to play football, volleyball, basketball alongside badminton. He had participated in School Games in Guntur and Eluru.
After his father settled in Machilipatnam, Pitchaiah who failed to get past SSLC, developed interest in ball badminton and was a frequent visitor to Minerva and Mohan Clubs where affluent sections used to play the game.
Pitchiah, who started his badminton career in 1932, represented 14 nations between 1955 and 1970 and had won nine titles. In all, he had participated in about 1,300 tourneys and excelled in most of them. He has the unique record of registering a hat-trick of National titles for Hyderabad and Andhra separately.
Playing against Madras’ great player Dakshina Murthy, he won the best player award in Gudivada in 1939. He also won the first Madras State Championship in 1951. He has received several awards such as Wizard of Ball Badminton (1958) and Star of India (1966).
It was in 1945, he first visited Warangal in search of a job. Later, he came back again after a couple of years and found a job with Azam Jahi Mills. However, after working for a brief period, he started Warangal Sports Store, which later became Pitchaiah Sports. On the other hand, he continued his passion for badminton by playing tourneys and winning them at will.
Pitchiah had to wait for a long time to get the Arjuna Award. At the age of 53 soon after playing his last national, he received the Arjuna Award from the Government of India. In 1997, he received the first NTR Award for the Best Sportsperson from the then Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu. In the same year, he also received the Pratibha Puraskar Award from Guru Shivananda Murthy.
Even though Pitchaiah ran a sports outlet for a living, his passion for badminton never diminished. He played badminton even at the age of 90 years. Thereafter he hung his bat due to geriatric problems. Since then he was restricted to his residence in Bank Colony, Warangal. Pitchaiah, who recently celebrated his 104th birthday, breathed his last on Sunday afternoon. He is survived by two daughters Suseela and Janaki.
Meanwhile, Minister for Panchayat Raj Errabelli Dayakar Rao, Chief Whip D Vinay Bhaskar, Warangal East MLA Nannapuneni Narender, former SAAP director Rajanala Srihari and Warangal district badminton association secretary Prof P Ramesh Reddy expressed their grief over death of Pitchaiah.