A seven-member Indian para badminton team for the Tokyo Paramalypics was on Saturday accorded a warm send-off with coach Gaurav Khanna exuding confidence about his players returning with a rich haul of medals. Badminton will make its debut at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo and India have some of the brightest medal prospects like world No.1 Pramod Bhagat (SL3), Krishna Nagar (SH6) and Tarun Dhillon (SL4) in their ranks.
The experienced Parul Parmar and the young Palak Kohli (SL3-SU5) will carry high hopes of returning with a medal in the women's category. The team also comprises Suhas L. Yathiraj (SL4) and Manoj Sarkar (SL3), who qualified after the Badminton World Federation (BWF) granted two bipartite quotas to the country.
"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," Khanna, a Dronacharya awardee, said during a virtual press conference. "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."
The Tokyo Paralympics, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, starts on August 24. Palak, who will be pairing up with Parmar, a two-time former world championship gold medallist, for the SL3-SU5 women's doubles event, said she is focussed on her preparation for the games.
"There will be pressure in the Paralympics as I will play three events in a day. But I have prepared well under my coach. So my complete focus has been on my preparation and I'm confident of my performance," the 18-year-old said.
The send-off event was organised at the Gaurav Khanna Excellia Badminton academy with Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) president Deepa Malik, joint secretary of Badminton Association of India (BAI) Prabhakar Rao and Indian Olympic Association Treasurer Anandeswar Pandey joining virtually. A 54-member Indian team for the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics was on Thursday given a warm send-off by Sports Minister Anurag Thakur and the national governing body. India will compete in nine sports.