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My perseverance has paid off: Para-Badminton world champion Manasi Joshi

Sayan Mukherjee

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Manasi Joshi
Para-badminton world champion Manasi Joshi's journey is a story of grit, determination and perseverance. Pics: Google and Twitter

New Delhi: Did PV Sindhu unknowingly steal your thunder?sports news headlines

“No, I don’t think so,” Para-Badminton World Championships winner Manasi Joshi’s reaction was prompt, sharp and insistent on not being at the receiving end of an apparent oversight despite the prevailing sentiment, which was highlighted by Kiran Bedi’s tweet.sports news headlines

“In the high of PV Sindhu getting Gold in World Championship, we forgot to wish Manasi Joshi, who won gold in World Para Badminton Championship. Here is it wishing her,” the Puducherry governor wrote on social media.

But Manasi persisted at not feeling a tad remorseful at being apparently overshadowed after her triumph collided with Sindhu’s World Championships victory. Neither does she believe that she would have received more applause for her achievement had not her win coincided with Sindhu’s on August 25, a red-letter day for Indian badminton.

“It’s all about how media portrays it. I hope our achievements will be given equal share of importance. If it’s overshadowed it’s only for the media, because we put in equal amount of effort and even train at the same academy,” the 30-year-old told Sports Lounge in an exclusive chat.

Considering what she has went through in her life these are indeed the least of her worries. She was only six and able-bodied when she got hooked to the racquet and shuttlecock. Full of ambition and promise, her dreams of “doing a Sindhu” were shattered in December, 2011, when she lost her left leg in a road accident.

Fate might have made her physically impaired but could hardly dent her resolve, her focus shifting towards para-badminton in 2014, collecting a mixed doubles silver medal at the 2015 Para-Badminton World Championship, followed by a bronze at the 2018 Asian Para Games.

After the World Championships gold, her journey might seem akin to a fairytale but not many can comprehend how difficult it is for an athlete to get accustomed to the use of prosthetics after beginning career as an able-bodied sportsperson.

Walking with prosthetics is in itself quite a task, Manasi was not only bold enough to adjust to the psychological demands of her forced shift but also mastered the physical alterations that came with her misfortune.

“As a para-athlete we have to do things differently. Preparation is quite different. We have to look after many things on our own. Right from prosthetics – like I have to make sure that after waking up I fix my prosthetics properly,” she explained.

“Able-bodied athletes don’t have to think about all those things. I have to make sure how much time I have to fit my prosthetics before training. We have to think about so many things just to come out of home and play.

“I am sure an able bodied player or person don’t have to think so much. But everybody has their own method of advantages and disadvantages, I have my own. It’s about facing them and moving on.”

Migrating from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad to enroll at Pullela Gopichand’s academy in 2018 was immensely beneficial. Her family, including her parents and two siblings, were beside her all through, as was “Gopi sir”, coaches Rajendra Kumar, Hary Muliono and fitness trainer Raju.

“My trainers and coaches had to adapt to my current situation and ensured that I underwent whatever was needed for me. It couldn’t have been possible without the support of the people who has worked hard. So I would like to thank all of them.”

One gold, however, doesn’t mask the various problems she has faced throughout her journey, primary among them being funding for para-sports and the high cost of prosthetics.

“The prosthetics for walking, which lasts around 5-6 years, has a market price of around Rs 22 lakh. The playing prosthetics cost about 5-6 lakh. As para athlete I have to spend a lot of amount just to start walking,” Manasi pointed out.

“My sponsors, Mallcom and Welspun, have been very helpful, so have my employers Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL).”

While a lot could obviously be done for para-sports’ upliftment, including support from national sports federations (NSF), India’s para-shuttlers didn’t need much to bag 12 medals at the Worlds in Basel. As reward they were handed a sum of Rs 1.82 lakh once they landed in the country.

Manasi acknowledged the sports ministry’s prompt response and amendment of rules to ensure that medal winners get their cash awards on the day of their return to the country after an international event and not at an annual ceremony.

“We got the reward as soon as we landed in India. We didn’t have to chase for the money. This change in attitude is refreshing. I congratulate the government and SAI for their dynamism.”

Not getting a shot at an Olympics gold in women’s singles at Tokyo 2020 (the SL3 singles category isn’t included in Para-badminton at the Games) doesn’t deflate her spirits, rather she has her eyes on qualifying and winning a medal in the mixed doubles section.

She hopes the SL3 category is included in the Olympics “sooner rather than later” but for now she wishes her World Championships gold would bring attention and attitudinal shift for investment in para-sports.

“I am very satisfied with my win. I worked hard for it. I made sure I kept at it,” she said, determined to stretch the limits of her achievement even further.

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