Indians winning four medals at the debut of para-badminton in the Paralympic Games feels quite special and close to heart. Despite having only a few among the para-badminton events, the Indian players have shown world-class performances, which I feel proud about. What we have seen today is just a tiny snippet of our power. The Paris 2024 Paralympics is going to be even better for our para-badminton players.
All the players have played brilliantly. Two gold medals, a silver, and a bronze speak volumes of their achievements, and because of this, I can only say para-badminton will gain more support from fans. I also expected a gold medal from Tarun and Suhas because we have dominated in their categories before the build-up for Tokyo Paralympics since 2015. However, I am not disappointed because it's all about having a good day on the court, which I believed has happened no matter the colour of the medal. Pramod Bhagat was expected to win the gold medal because he is one of the best that the world has seen, and Krishna also proved his worth as one of the finest youngsters by performing in high-intensity matches.
These medals, including two gold, will go a long way to inspire more players to take up the sport. Five years ago, para-badminton did not have much recognition, nobody knew the players' names, but the graph has ever increased since 2018. Para badminton, includes in Paralympics, has attracted plenty of people to take up the sport today. The popularity of the sport has only increased. We have para-badminton World Championships coming in two months, and I hope, we will get plenty of support from the fans during the competition.
One of the best aspects of Indian para-badminton has been how our coach Gaurav Khanna has brought systematic intervention to the team. Earlier, the athletes used to train in different cities. We wanted to train together and understand each other's game. But this was a long-awaited dream for us which turned true because of the coach. There was no particular camp for para-badminton before Gaurav Khanna set things up in Lucknow. We started playing there, and the improvement could be seen. Besides, a junior badminton training centre has also been started now which was missing during our days. As a family, the Indian para-badminton fraternity has taken the sport to a place of bright future. We need more women athletes in para-badminton.
Though we participate in different categories of the sport, we understand each other's games we support each other. Our sports do not attract a lot of crowds in the stadium, and that is why we cheer for each other. This motivation goes a long way in helping us play our matches and win them. That is why we are friends with each other, no matter what category or age group one is playing in. Every player is quite aggressive on the court, but off the court, we are friends.
To develop the sport in India, we need to promote the game. The achievements our shuttlers have won at this Paralympic Games would be the right platform that would help grow the sport. The success stories of para-athletes will inspire others to take up the sport.
The Sports Authority of India's Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) program has provided one of the biggest support for para-badminton. Since TOPS' intervention, we don't have to worry about fundings, support, tournaments, and camps. TOPS has played a pivotal role in the 19 medals we have won at the Paralympics. They have given athletes financial independence; they have curated the particular needs of each athlete and taken care of their training.
The result at the Tokyo Paralympics could just be the precursor of the best days that are soon to come for para-badminton.
About Sukant Kadam:
Sukant Kadam is an Indian professional para badminton player. He is ranked number 5 in the world. The 2018 Asian Para Games bronze medallist, had an incredible start of 2021, where he bagged a silver medal each in men's doubles SL3 - SL4 and men's singles SL4 category at the Dubai Para-Badminton International 2021.