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Early daysThings were not easy for Sukant Kadam during his college days, why would it be? The Para-Badminton player had to smash his way to the college team during the 1st year of his Engineering course. From there to becoming the World No.2 player in the world hasn’t been an easy ride, but it was worth it nonetheless! He won all the matches en-route to a Gold medal finish a few months at the 2018 Para-Badminton Spanish International Championships. Currently gearing up for the Asian Games, the Pune-based athlete has miles to go and dreams to achieve! Owing to his slow movement and a disability in his left leg, Sukant was rejected from the college team. He wanted to be a part of the team, toiling hard for one whole year and finally got a call-up. “I was not selected for the college team because my movement was very slow according to them. I was disappointed and started playing seriously for a year and got a chance. This was how my career started,” said Sukant while speaking to The Bridge. His breakthrough into the International circuit started after his attention was drawn towards another Para-Athlete Girsh N. Gowda, whose success tempted Sukant to explore new avenues in his career. He never knew it was going to be a life-changer! “It was 2012 that Girisha won a Bronze medal when I got to know that there was a sport called Para-Badminton for the disabled. I thought I should try that because I was defeating everyone in college." "Then I started finding contacts and approached a few people and got an opportunity to play in an all India multi-sports tournament which was organised by the Rotary Club. Even though everyone was new, I won a Gold medal over there in 2013,” said Sukant.
The birth of a championThat tournament (Rotary) gave him a platform to showcase his skills along with others from the entire nation which boosted him a lot. It made him believe that he was ‘built for the kill’ and made him realise that he was ready for something big which was not confined to the national circuit. He added, “That win gave me confidence and soon I started to prepare for the nationals. Although I lost in the quarter-finals at the nationals, I got an idea about the level of competition and how long I need to practise to compete over there." "Then, I thought of playing an International tour and took part in the England Championship in 2014 when I was in the third year of college. I did not win a medal over there, but the exposure was good.” Playing in an International tournament not only gives a player a fair estimation of one’s standard in comparison with others but also helps to recognise mistakes. That’s what exactly happened in the case of Sukant also. He was able to structure a roadmap for the rest of his career. After returning from the United Kingdom, he practised hard for two years and I got an opportunity to play at the Nikhil Kanetkar Badminton Academy in 2015. Since then, it has been a success story all the way! 2016 was probably the most memorable year for him, winning the Ireland Para-Badminton Championships Bronze and repeating the feat at the Asian Championships. In 2017, Sukant stood third at the Spanish Para-Badminton Championships singles event but bettered it this time in 2018 claiming top honours. The 2018 Jakarta Asian Games is the next major destination for the sportsman which is scheduled to start on October 8.
The current situationIndian sports are generally cricket-centric, while the other disciplines attract the spotlight on rare occasions. It has been a very tough time for Para-Sports to survive in the midst of immense competition. “The State Government and the Central Government does not lend a hand of support for my activities and tournament, all the financial help I receive is from the Kanetkar Sports Foundation. We even do not receive any recognition,” said a worried Sukant Kadam.
Recalling his experience, he said,” for my last two tournaments in Uganda and Turkey, I was lacking in funds for accommodation and entry fees. So that time, I got support from ‘Edelweiss’ and nobody else was willing to offer and I never had enough time to approach everyone.” India was ranked 43rd at the 2016 Paralympics with an accumulation of 4 medals including 2 Golds, a Silver and a Bronze. Even though it may be a respectable outing considering the importance given, the tally can easily be made much heavier if the Sports Ministry takes up the case responsibly. We definitely have more than one Mariyappan Thangavelu and Sukant Kadam in our nation; we just need to find them!
“Government should support the top ranked players and help them financially for the tournaments only, even if they don’t offer lucrative schemes. If the World No.2 player is suffering from sponsorship and getting accommodation money, it’s very unfortunate,” said the shuttler.