Legendary badminton player Nandu Natekar, the first Indian to win an international title in 1956, died in Pune on Wednesday.
The 88-year-old, who won over 100 national and international titles in his career, was suffering from age-related ailments. He is survived by his son Gaurav and two daughters.
Natekar, who was considered one of the most popular sportspersons of his time, was also a former World number three. Natekar, a tennis and cricket player before he excelled in badminton, dominated the world stage from 1950 to 1970.
The Pune resident became the first Indian player to win an international event when he won Sellanger International in Malaysia in 1956. The former World No. 3 made it to the quarter-finals of the prestigious All England Championships in 1954. He won the Men’s Doubles National Championship a total of six times, the Men’s Singles National Championship a total of six times, and the Mixed Doubles National Championship a total of five times. He won 12 out of 16 singles matches and eight out of 16 doubles match as part of the Indian team at the Thomas Cup between 1951 and 1963. He also had the distinction of leading the country in the tournament in 1959, 1961, and 1963. He represented India at the 1965 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica.
Born in Sangli in western Maharashtra, Natekar won over 100 national and international titles in a career spanning over 15 years. He was also conferred with the prestigious Arjuna Award in 1961.
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In a message, the Natekar family said, “With deepest sorrow, we would like to inform you that our beloved father Nandu Natekar passed away on 28th July 2021. Keeping in mind the Covid-19 guidelines, we will not be having a condolence meeting. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.”
Condoling the death of Natekar, Modi said his achievements will continue to motivate budding players.
“Shri Nandu Natekar has a special place in India’s sporting history. He was an outstanding badminton player and a great mentor,” Modi tweeted.
“His success continues to motivate budding athletes. Saddened by his demise. My thoughts are with his family and friends in this sad hour. Om Shanti,” the prime minister said.