World number one Pramod Bhagat won the men's singles gold in the SL4 category at the Dubai Para Badminton tournament after defeating compatriot Nitesh Kumar here on Sunday. Bhagat beat Kumar 21-17 21-18 in the final. There were some good rallies between the two Indians before Bhagat showcased his class to win the match and the gold under pressure.
SL4 players could have an impairment in one or both legs and a minimal impairment in walking/running balance. They must play standing. Bhagat then paired up with Manoj Sarkar to clinch the men's doubles gold in SL4-SL3 category by beating Indian counterparts Sukant Kadam and Nitesh Kumar 21-18 21-16. Bhagat also won a bronze in mixed doubles, pairing up with Palak Kohli. He won a medal in every category that he took part.
World number five Sukant Kadam, however, could not deliver his best and lost in the SL3 men's singles final against Lucas Mazur of France 15-21 6-21. The Indians, who returned to international competition after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of events for more than a year, won 21 medals -- 5 gold, 6 silver, 10 bronze -- in the tournament.
"After such a long gap, this is a very good return, winning two gold medals which will help me a lot in the build up to the Paralympics. I hope to continue this kind of performance in the Paralympics," Bhagat said. "During COVID time, SAI and TOPS helped me a lot, they provided me a mini-gym which helped me maintain my fitness, the result of which was visible today. I was fit that's why I was able to perform well.
"SAI also organised a very good camp because of which we were able to return to our levels and make a strong comeback on the international circuit," said Bhagat, who is among seven para-badminton players in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme.
Chief coach Gaurav Khanna said, "Once the lockdown was over, we started training in Lucknow and we were looking for the opportunity to get tournaments where we can assess ourselves and we got the opportunity to come here. "I am so happy that we are the highest in medals tally among all the countries present here."