Subhankar Dey is a perfect example of a journeyman. For a self-funded athlete, life can throw lots of unusual moments, especially in a sport like badminton. Eight years ago, Subhankar ran away from his home to pursue badminton while his mother wanted him to take up the Food Corporation of India job offered to him. Not only did he run away from the sedentary job which could have offered him stability, he ran away from obscurity.
All on his own, Subhankar didn't really receive an opportunity at the national camp, so he switched to Copenhagen, Denmark. Playing in the Danish League was a learning curve for the independent shuttler as he participated in multiple European tournaments.
After all the hardships, the World No 64 finally managed to get into the groove to upset Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and fifth seed Rajiv Ouseph 21-11, 21-14 and clinch the biggest title of his career at the SaarLorLax Open in Saarbrucken, Germany.
It had been an incredible week for Subhankar, who lives with a Danish family, as he edged past former World and Olympic champion Lin Dan in the second round and saved two match points in the semi-finals against China's Ren Pengbo before booking his spot in the final.
Subhankar spoke to Firstpost and shed some light on the best week of his life and his unusual journey
Would you describe this week as the best week of your life?
This is my best week ever, indeed. It had always been a dream for me to play against Lin Dan since I was a kid. Then to beat him in a World Tour event is a dream come true. And eventually, winning a Grand Prix event. It's really special to me. Priceless, I would say.
What does this win mean to you?
This win is just not mine but for all those people who don't get support and who are scared to pursue a career in the sport. Also, for the people who have to suffer through depression. This win shows that everyone can achieve something if they work hard and think smart. This win is for them... that's why it is very special.
I don't know if this will bring a change in fortune, but whatever will happen will happen for a good reason. So, I'm going with the flow, trying to get better and better.
How has your training schedule been lately? Were there any changes?
The training schedule is a little different in Europe as they don't train much. So, I chalk out my own training regime and try to do everything on my own. I enjoy working hard, so if I am involved in less badminton, I do more of physical training which helps me maintain my game.
Did the win against your idol Lin Dan give you the confidence to perform brilliantly in the tournament?
Winning against my idol was really a big thing. I didn't celebrate after winning. My head was down. I shook his hand and told him 'thank you'.
I knew I had to push even harder in the next match as I was playing Toby Penty from England. Actually, when you play top level players, you don't feel the pressure, but when you are playing against players of the same level or juniors, you have to handle the pressure, so every game and match is different.
How have the clubs in Denmark helped you grow?
I had to enroll myself in local clubs because I was short on funds and I didn't know what to do. So, I had to earn some money to play international tournaments and choosing clubs allowed me to earn and pay for the BWF events.
How do you manage yourself professionally in Denmark as a self-funded athlete?
It's a challenge for me everyday in Denmark. I learned how to cook and many other things on my own. It's a different lifestyle altogether. I hardly get to see people there after 5 pm. I had a tough time. There were times when I slept at the airport, struggling with depression and anxiety attacks. It has been a tough journey for me, really. It's worth it.
Tell us a little about your academy in Kolkata?
We have almost 60 players with 3 coaches -- head coach is NUR Mustaqim Chayo (Indonesia), my elder brother Somnath Kar and assistant coach Kalyan Mahapa " in my academy in Kolkata.
How do you plan on shaping your career from here?
The main motive behind starting an academy is to help and give good training and facilities in Bengal. I never got any opportunities, now my players can get some. We are looking for a bigger place now. I always had a dream of giving something back to badminton. I am very happy I could achieve that with my badminton career.
The plan is to play bigger tournaments from now and enter top-30 as soon as possible. I have a lot of things to work on my game. I am really motivated and excited to train even harder and to learn more and more. Everything will be fine and there's a lot more trophies to come.