Pramod Bhagat: From an opening batsman in local cricket tournament to winning Paralympics gold medal
The 33-year-old shuttler won the gold medal in the Men's Singles SL3 category at the Tokyo Paralympics
Indian Paralympian Pramod Bhagat scripted history after winning the gold medal in badminton, a sport that was making its debut in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Competing in the Men's SL3 category, he defeated the World No. 2, Daniel Bethell, in a closely contested match and India's fourth gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics.
Pramod, who was diagnosed with polio at the age of four, just like the majority of Indian kids in his early days used to enjoy playing cricket and was an opening batsman in the local tournaments. Pramod would often look at the badminton court and at times laugh thinking how easy it would be to cover the court, as he was used to covering large spaces in the cricket fields despite his mobility being restricted. His life changed completely at the age of 13 when he watched his first-ever badminton match. Pramod was completely mesmerized with the fitness, skill, and footwork that was required to compete in the sport and from there on decided to take up badminton with the mindset of becoming one of the best in the sport.
Pramod competed in his first badminton tournament at the age of 15 against able-bodied athletes and showed a lot of grit and skill. Despite losing, Pramod was encouraged by the spectators to further hone his skillset and continue with his hard work and he did just that working tirelessly over the next couple of years which resulted in him winning the district level tournament.
Pramod eventually shifted into the Para badminton circuit in 2006 and one year later made his first big splash at the international stage winning the bronze medal in both the Men's Singles and Doubles SL1 category at the 2007 Para World Championship in Thailand. Two years later, Pramod improved further this time winning the gold at the World Championship in Korea in the singles category.
After the changes of rules in terms of classification, Pramod started to compete in the SL3 category from the 2013 World Championship and this time won gold in the doubles event. Pramod's winning streak continued in 2015, 2017, and 2019 as well as he won a medal in each of the World Championship and marked his supremacy in the sport. He also won a singles gold medal at the 2018 Asian Para Games as well that was held in Indonesia.
As badminton made its debut in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, the current World No.1 in the SL3 category knew that he would be carrying the expectations of the billions of Indians in the competition and he didn't disappoint.
On the road to the finals of the Men's Singles SL3 category, Pramod had won all his three matches and dropped only a single set which was against fellow countrymen Manoj Sarkar. He continued his fine form in the finals as well, defeating Daniel Bethell in straight sets with a scoreline of 21-14 and 21-17 and securing the gold medal.