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A momentous bronze medal haul at the 2018 Asian Para Games in Indonesia has provided the young para-shuttler, Nitesh Kumar, a renewed perspective towards the sport. The 23-year-old Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) - Mandi student is weaving bigger dreams of making into the World Championships taking one step at a time. Nitesh Kumar, who kickstarted a busy year through two medal-winning tourneys in Turkey and Dubai, is on his way to Uganda this week to participate in his third Para-Badminton Internationals in 2019. "The two successive tours in March have lifted my morale. I finished off the Turkish Internationals with a silver in men's doubles and bronze in men's singles SL3 categories. I won the bronze medal in the men's doubles event in Dubai International. Uganda will be my third tournament this year where I will try to inch closer to my dream of qualifying in the World Championships this year," says Nitesh Kumar in an exclusive interview with The Bridge. The 2018 Asian Para Games was an eye-opener for Nitesh who paired up with India's Anand Kumar to win the bronze medal in the tournament. "I have been continuously balancing between my studies and sports. However, the success at the Asian Games helped me to strengthen my focus in this sport further, and now I wish to pursue the greater challenges," says Nitesh. Nitesh had picked up sports from his childhood days when he used to play football. However, an accident in 2009 at Vizag came as a significant blow which got him bed-ridden for months and eventually causing permanent damage to his legs. The injury, however, did not have a setback on Nitesh's indomitable willpower and he began to channelise all his energy in studies. After completing his 12th board exams, he gave a year drop to prepare for the IIT entrance examinations. His hard work paid off as he got admission at the IIT Mandi in 2013 and was shifted to IIT Roorkee for a preparatory course which took him a year to complete. It was during the IIT-Roorkee days, Nitesh's interest grew towards badminton. For the next two years, whenever he got a break from his studies, he would take on able-body batchmates and play with equal aplomb on the court. "The best thing IIT-Mandi gave me was the opportunity to play badminton even after being a para-student. You won't find any other para-athlete from any other IIT, playing at an international level. They even helped me with my training providing me with all the facilities and extending financial support to play the sport. Particularly, I would like to thank our national coach, Mr. Gaurav Khanna. He started supporting me with everything - from training to study schedules." says Nitesh. Fresh opportunities knocked on his door in 2016 when he earned a spot in the Haryana team to participate in the Para Nationals in Faridabad. Being at his maiden Nationals, Nitesh registered instant success to pick up the Bronze medal. It was 2017, which turned out to be a significant year for Nitesh when he won the silver in the singles and bronze in the doubles event in Bengaluru. "I would still consider the Nationals in Bengaluru my most favourite moment in this journey, where I defeated the no.1 challenger in the quarterfinals. It was also in the same year, I won an International title in Ireland," says Nitesh. When asked about how he found a balance between his studies and sports, the world no. 10 singles men's para-shuttler said, "I was in my seventh semester and had my exams which is why I couldn't participate in the World Championships in 2017. In 2018, I had the opportunity to take part in the 2018 Para Asian Games. I didn't want to lose it this time. I took a break of a year to participate in the Para Asian Games. Now I am pursuing my eighth semester, and my institute has supported me with extensive resources to strike a balance." Nitesh's journey has further been fuelled by Fast&Up, which has provided him not only nutritional benefit but also better equipment to train with.
Ask any para-athlete and everyone will point bringing laurels for their country at the Para Olympics Games as their ultimate motivation. Nitesh's aspiration is no different. However, with age by his side, he is setting his eyes on the World Championships in Switzerland which will be held in August 2019.
"I got associated with Fast&Up after the Para Asian Games in October 2018. I had never used any supplements before. After the event, I thought of giving myself an extra boost of supplements. I like their products, particularly their energy drinks which is making my body more recharged to take up the higher challenges of the sport. I hope this association will yield better results for me in the coming days," says Nitesh.