India’s passion for sports is known to be unimaginable, and this time Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj proved it to be true. The 33-year-old who happens to be Azamgarh’s District Magistrate claimed a gold medal at the Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) Asian Para-Badminton Championships 2016 in Beijing, China on November 27. The 2007-batch IAS officer had shocked his family and friends by quitting his job as a software engineer in Bengaluru almost a decade ago to venture into civil services. His father was a civil engineer from Shimoga district in Karnataka, his brother works as a software engineer in Bengaluru, while his wife is a provincial civil services officer posted in Azamgarh.

“It was not easy to be the DM and at the same time compete with professional players from China, Korea or Malaysia, who have been practicing 24×7. Badminton is my passion and civil services my dream job. I wanted to pursue my passion without affecting my job. I would give two hours in the morning before starting my meetings and then at night whenever I would get time,” said Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj as quoted in the Indian Express.

He settled down in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh approximate a-year-and-a-half ago. Yathiraj who was always passionate about badminton was curious about his favourite sport’s condition in UP. “Are there any professional badminton players in the district? Much to my surprise, Azamgarh is a hub of budding players and has a number of professional badminton players, who are younger to me and have already played at the national level and bagged jobs under the sports quota. I would watch online videos of techniques used by professional players and then implement them,” explained Yathiraj.

Yathiraj is targeting the Badminton World Championships in Korea and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “I never knew that I would become an IAS officer and that I would win a medal. I have learned with experience that one should pursue his passion. There would also be challenges. On Diwali, I decided to play for the entire day as it was a holiday. My wife was very angry but she is happy now,” he added. Yathiraj returned to a hero’s welcome upon reaching Azamgarh. Locals and officials standing in queues greeted and congratulated him. UP IAS Association plans to soon felicitate Yathiraj for his undeniable contribution to the Indian sports.

Suhas’ success is really remarkable considering the fact that the 2016 Asian Para-Badminton Championships was his first ever tournament under BWF. After returning to India from China, Yathiraj travelled to Lucknow before heading back to Azamgarh, to meet Akhilesh Yadav, Honorable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. CM later took time out from his busy schedule and posted a picture of himself with Yathiraj on his twitter account with a caption saying, “Proud of Suhas Ly, District Magistrate Azamgarh, who won gold for Badminton at the Asian Paralympic Championship.”