I want to return with a gold medal from Tokyo Paralympics: Shuttler Pramod Bhagat
Para-badminton star, Pramod Bhagat, opens up about his Paralympics plan in an exclusive conversation with The Bridge.
The Tokyo Paralympics will be the first time in history that Para-badminton is competed at the quadrennial event. It is a sport that has flourished in India in recent times, with shuttlers from the country winning medals at multiple high profile events, and unsurprisingly, sports fans in the country are expecting medals in the sport at the Tokyo Paralympics.
India is sending a seven-member badminton contingent to the Tokyo Paralympics, and the one name which stands out for his achievements and experience in the elite level Para-badminton is Pramod Bhagat.
The 33-year-old has been around the Indian Para-badminton circuit for quite some time and is rightfully considered by many as the best shuttler in the country by many.
Having qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics in two events – Men's Singles SL3 and Mixed Doubles SL3-SU5, fans have a lot of expectations from Pramod Bhagat, and so does he.
"My expectation is nothing less than winning a gold medal for India. I have trained hard for this moment all my life and will put everything on the line to win the gold medal for India. It is my long-standing dream," said a very determined Pramod to The Bridge.
The veteran states that he has worked extensively on his mental strength alongside his physical strength and stroke play during the course of the covid-19 imposed lockdown, which has put him in the best shape possible going into the Tokyo Paralympics.
"During the course of the lockdown, I have worked hard not only on my stroke play but also my physical and mental strength. I have spent a lot of time in my personal gym working out and strengthening my body. I am in the best shape possible, and the win at the recently concluded event in Dubai has only strengthened my belief of winning the gold medal," he said.
Pramod Bhagat believes that he would have a better chance of winning a medal in Men's singles because he has started competing in the doubles circuit only recently.
"Honestly speaking, I fancy winning a medal in Singles more since I have started playing Mixed doubles only recently. That said, Palak and I have been practising a lot together and are trying to understand each other's game better. She is the future of Indian badminton – the one to watch out for, and hopefully, we will be able to create magic at the world stage," mentioned the Odisha man.
He was affected by polio at an early age, causing impairment in his leg. But he always used to play sports and played as an opening batsman in cricket before being drawn to badminton in his teenage.
"I was affected by polio when I was just 5-year-old. As a child, I started off with cricket and used to play as an opening batsman in local tournaments before developing an interest for badminton in my teens. When I was around 14, I used to run to the nearby playground to watch my seniors from the school play the sport, and I was gradually drawn towards it."
Pramod was all praise for his first coach and mentor, SP Das, who taught him the basics of Para-Badminton and helped him become a professional Para athlete.
"I slowly started playing and after winning my first district tournament met my first coach, SP Das. He was my first mentor. I used to play outdoors, while it was an indoor sport professionally. He was the one who helped me make that shift and eventually become an international player," he said.
The reigning Asian and World Champion also attributed his success at the international level to his family, who have always backed him to follow his dreams.
"My family has been my biggest strength throughout my career. I would not have reached this far without their support. Whenever I am low or feel dejected, they cheer me up and improve my morale," stated Pramod during an email conversation.