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Why is para badminton one of India's best medal bets at Tokyo Paralympics?

Para badminton is expected to shine at Tokyo Paralympics for India as the 7-member squad boasts of World Champion shuttlers in the mix.

Pramod Bhagat, Krishna Nagar and Tarun Dhillon

Pramod Bhagat, Krishna Nagar and Tarun Dhillon


Sohinee Basu

Updated: 22 Aug 2021 9:04 AM GMT

Badminton has always been a spot of glory for Indians - with both non-para athletes as well as para athletes shining on the international circuit. While Indian badminton has proven its mettle at the stage of the Olympics courtesy medalling shuttlers like Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu, it is time now for the seasoned para shuttlers to fetch glory at the Tokyo Paralympics where badminton will make its debut.

The Indian contingent of para shuttlers heading to Tokyo have their eyes full of dreams and are definitely looking to make it big - as they have the experience and the talent to return with multiple medals. Boasting of a squad comprising mostly of World Championship medallists and Asian Games medallists alongside title winners of a string of BWF tournaments, the 7-member team heading to Tokyo Paralympics is strong and full of potential.

First off, we need to understand the various categories and classifications based on which the badminton event is carried out for para athletes. The Paralympics will follow the same pattern and Indian shuttlers have representation in four of the six categories available for participation.

Badminton for para athletes is divided into six categories depending on the extent of the condition or the injury of the sportsperson - i) WH1 (wheelchair/severe), ii) WH2 (wheelchair/minor), iii) SL3 (Standing/lower limb impairment/minor impairment), iv) SL4 (Standing/ lower limb impairment/severe impairment), v) SU5 (Standing/upper limb impairment) and vi) SH6 (Standing/short stature).

Who are the players in India's badminton contingent for the Tokyo Paralympics?

Palak Kohli (Source: Olympics website)

The team of 7 para shuttlers from India heading to the Tokyo Paralympics are seasoned and according to the coach, Gaurav Khanna, are most certain of returning with medals and this isn't any loose saying.

All eyes will be on World No.1 Pramod Bhagat (SL3) who has 4 Gold medals from the World Championships and also has another gold from the 2018 Asian Games in the men's singles SL3 category. All of 33 now, Bhagat's most recent win came at the Peru Para Badminton International, where Bhagat, as the top seed of the event, returned with the title. The Odisha star is one of the major hopefuls of bringing home a medal from his maiden Paralympics outing.

Joining Bhagat in the SL3 category, will be former World No. 1 Manoj Sarkar. Hailing from Uttarakhand, Sarkar is familiar with success and has as many as 5 medals, one of every colour at least, combined in both singles and doubles. The 31-year-old seasoned shuttler is excited to represent his country at the Paralympics and is keenly eying a podium spot.

Next, in the SL4 category, India has bright prospects with Tarun Dhillon and Suhas L. Yathiraj participating in the event. While Haryana's Dhillon has been a World Champion twice in 2013 and 2015 and is in good shape for the Tokyo Paralympics, the story of Suhas L. Yathiraj of Karnataka is extremely inspiring. Yathiraj, will become the first civil servant to participate in the Paralympics as the 38-year-old is an active IAS officer serving as the District Magistrate of Gautam Buddha Nagar in Noida. A gold medallist at the 2016 Asia Championships, Suhas Yathiraj is the epitome of showing how you can juggle your passion and profession expertly, no matter the difficulties.

Finally, for the men's singles, there is Krishna Nagar who will take part in the SH6 category. At 22, the boy from Rajasthan is a bright talent and he is eager to create ripples at the Tokyo Paralympics. A bronze medallist at the Asian Games and the World Championships, Nagar will have to be watched out for in Tokyo.

Yet another bright medal prospect lies in the Women's Doubles where the much-experienced veteran shuttler Parul Parmar (SL3) will pair up with Palak Kohli (SU5). Parmar has been a 2-time gold medallist at the World Championships and has an impeccable record on the BWF circuit. With Kohli by her side, she will want to bring home a medal for sure from Tokyo Paralympics.

Why should we hope for multiple medals from the Indian para badminton squad?

Given the extremely talented set of players who have set sail for Tokyo, it goes without saying that we are allowed to expect them to return with medals as badminton will make its debut on the Paralympic stage. According to Gaurav Khanna, who is the coach for Indian badminton at the Paralympics, the shuttlers are expected to return with 5 medals out of which 3 are supposed to be gold.

"We have a very strong team representing the country at the Paralympics. Out of the six best players of the world selected for the Paralympics, two are Indians. Two from SL3 and two from SL4 category in men's singles," Gaurav Khanna, a Dronacharya awardee, said during a virtual press conference, as reported by Firstpost.

"So I am pretty sure our players will bring medals and a realistic expectation will be a minimum of five medals. We are going to get five medals, including three golds, for the country," Khanna has mentioned authoritatively.

With such players like Pramod Bhagat, Parul Parmar, Krishna Nagar in the mix, it wouldn't be unfair to keep our expectations high from this contingent of para shuttlers heading to Tokyo and the medals are almost guaranteed given the rave form in which they are currently.

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