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It’s raining medals for Indian para badminton players in Dubai at first international event post Cov

India’s Para badminton players have made history with a 21-medal haul at the Dubai Para Badminton International 2021. Some of the world’s top players competed at this tournament, which is the first major badminton tournament since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Indian Para badminton is making its presence felt after nearly two years and how. Indian shuttlers were clearly the stars at the 3rd Fazza Dubai Para Badminton International, with the total medal tally of 21 including five golds.

Over 15 players from 29 countries took part in the event including several world champions like Indonesia’s Leani Ratri Oktila and Fasutine Noel and Lucas Mazur from France.

From India, the star players included four-time world champion Pramod Bhagat, world number five Sukant Kadam and Manasi Joshi, currently ranked world number 2 in women’s singles.

India sends 26 players

The Indian side with 26 players was the largest contingent and the outstanding performance was the result of consistent effort put in by the players during the lockdown.

“We continued training right through the lockdown situation on an outdoor court that was built after the pandemic”, said Gaurav Khanna, Head National Coach. “After the lockdown the players resumed training and we were looking for the opportunity to get tournaments where we can assess ourselves. We got that opportunity here”.

Among the stars at the event was Pramod Bhagat who won gold in the SL4 category by defeating compatriot Nitesh Kumar. He then teamed up with Manoj Sarkar to win gold in their doubles match (SL4 – SL3) against fellow Indian players Sukant Kadam and Nitesh Kumar. The match was a closely fought one and the result was 21-18, 21-16.

In the women’s singles, Manasi Joshi and Palak Kohli won a silver medal each.

Bhagat is one of the seven para-badminton players in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) under which athletes and sportspersons get customised training from top coaches at modern sports facilities. Speaking to the media, Bhagat said the win would help him in the run up to the Tokyo Paralympics. “I hope to continue this kind of performance in the Paralympics. During COVID time, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and TOPS helped me a lot.”.

Rise of wheelchair shuttlers

Among the most exciting developments in the national para badminton scene has been the opening of India’s first academy for the sport in late 2020. Called the Gaurav Khanna Excellia Badminton Academy, this is dedicated to para shuttlers and the results were evident in the quality of performances in Dubai. For the first time wheelchair shuttlers Abu Hubaida and Prem Ale won a silver medal losing to players from France in a closely fought match.

 

There are plans to open another facility linked to the academy which will focus on recovery and therapy.

Up next is the Spanish Para Badminton International – the sport’s last qualification tournament for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. This will be held in May and will be crucial for players who are yet to qualify for the Paralympics.

Apart from the wheelchair shuttlers all eyes are also on Palak Kohli, who is the youngest qualifier for Tokyo. Palak is a national champion in senior and junior categories and shows plenty of promise for someone so young. In Dubai, she won a silver in the SU5 category losing a closely fought match to Netherlands’ Megan Hollander 18-21, 18-21.