Tokyo Paralympic gold medalist shuttler Pramod Bhagat on Friday said he is confident that India will double its medal tally at the prestigious multi-sport event in Paris, which is just three years away.
India won 19 medals – five gold, eight silver, six bronze medals – with its best ever performance from the Tokyo Paralympics. The country’s previous best was four in one edition of the Paralympic Games.
Claiming to have won the gold medal in the men’s singles SL3 category, three-time world champion Bhagat, during a panel discussion at the ‘India Today Conclave’, said, “I am sure the medal count will double (in Paris in 2024). “
“Our Prime Minister fully supports the athletes. PCI is taking good care of its athletes, it is possible if PM is with us and facilities are being provided.
Bhagat, who was diagnosed with polio at the age of 4, started the game by watching his neighbors play.
Initially, he competed against able-bodied players before switching to competitive para badminton in 2006.
Bhagat, the world number one, said, “Struggles in life teach us a lot and what we can achieve.”
“It’s important how confident we are and not how much we train or play…. It’s important how you make up your mind and move forward.”
Suhas Yathiraj, India’s first IAS officer to win a medal in Paralympics, described the Tokyo Paralympics as a momentous moment and said it could give a big boost to para sports like winning the 1983 World Cup to cricket in the country.
Yetiraj won a silver medal in the men’s singles SL4 category badminton event in Tokyo.
“1983 was a pivotal moment for Indian cricket when Kapil Dev won the World Cup. Similarly, the 2020 Tokyo is a turning point for the Indian Paralympics. You will see a big change in attitude,” said Noida District Magistrate Yathiraj.
“I see a huge difference in the way people look… There is nothing like success. The way the country is celebrating both Olympic and Paralympic medals, it’s great… Awareness is slowly coming Increasing.”
Table tennis player Bhavna Patel, who won a historic silver medal in her Paralympic Games debut in Tokyo, said she was worried about qualifying for the Tokyo Games when the pandemic struck and recalled the challenges she faced Was.
“It was a big challenge during the pandemic. First, I had to qualify for Paralympis. With great difficulty, I could qualify for the Paralympics,” said Patel, who became only the second Indian female athlete to win a medal at the Paralympics.
“Apart from training, fitness was a challenge but I was able to overcome them. During the pandemic, it was a blessing, I trained a lot and planned a lot for each and every player. “
India’s Paralympic Committee chairperson Deepa Malik said that access will be crucial for the development of para-sports in the country.
“Accessibility is not only physical, it has to be in the mindset as well. Unless we tap into the grassroots level and we build more arenas that are accessible and universally accessible, it will always remain a chicken and egg story,” she said.
“What will come first, more talent or infrastructure. We really need to work on district level and state policies. Thanks to these 19 medals, many states have revised their policies for para-sports.
Malik said she was overjoyed when Bhavna Patel won a silver medal at the Tokyo Paralympics.
“Bringing home the first medal was a paradox for me because it took 72 years for our country to become a women’s Paralympic medalist,” said Malik, who won a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
“And I was most excited when Bhavna (Patel) won the medal. I said, I am not alone here, there is another silver smile shining on the tricolor
“I am very proud that we are back with 19 medals. 19 are going to Rio in 2016 and 54 are going to Tokyo. From 2 girls to 14 girls, we have come a long way…”
Gaurav Khanna, Head National Coach of the Indian Para-Badminton team was also present on the occasion.