In the midst of euphoria over the spectacular success of PV Sindhu and B Sai Praneeth, the para-badminton players too, without much noise, brought glory to the country in the recently concluded World Championship in Basel, Switzerland. Led by the indomitable Manasi Nayana Joshi, the Indian contingent was able to garner 12 medals in the tournament. It was indeed a pleasing sight to see Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeting the success story of these Para-badminton players even as the majority of the media chose to ignore it. Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju readily came forward to hand over a cheque for Rs 1.82 crore to the team. The gold medal winners got Rs 20 lakh each, while the silver and bronze medallists took home Rs 14 lakh and Rs 8 lakh, respectively. Winners in the doubles events were given Rs 15 lakh each for gold, Rs 10.5 lakh each for silver and Rs 6 lakh each for bronze. This has come after several para-badminton players tweeted their desire to meet the Prime Minister. This noble gesture meant a lot to these differently-abled athletes who now believe that they are not ignored by the authorities concerned. These athletes may have been born with some handicaps or encountered mishaps, which would have dashed their hopes, but they never lost their spirit. For instance, 30-year-old Manasi Joshi lost her left leg in an accident when she was hit by a truck at a busy junction. She was down but continued to fight against all odds. She trained like any other normal athlete for three sessions, focused on fitness and lost some weight. She used to train for six sessions a week. Another bronze medallist, Sukant Kadam, was initially left out of the college badminton team after being declared that he was unfit to take up the sport. However, Sukant went on to achieve big, including a career-high No.2 ranking in men’s singles. These incidents reflect on the need to ensure a moral support system for these players.
Gone are the days when para-events were treated as games which require only a minimal set of skills. The competition is extremely challenging and as Manasi puts it, requires more focus and willpower to compete against internationally accomplished players. However, despite all odds, India have done well in para-badminton events. In 2015, a record haul of 12 medals, including four gold medals, was won by Indian players. Despite achieving success, their rich haul was largely ignored by the media and officials, and the athletes had to endure a long wait to receive their cash awards. However, with the new change in policy, the Union Sports Ministry presented cash awards as soon as the players landed in the country. The Badminton Association of India in a bid to develop the game in the country included para-badminton under its ambit. However, a lot more needs to be done to promote the game. Introducing para-badminton games as part of events like Premier Badminton League can certainly provide more exposure to the players.