What a day it turned out for India in the Paralympics! Pramod Bhagat and Manoj Sarkar won gold and bronze respectively in Men’s Badminton Individual SL3 classification.
Pramod Bhagat made India proud after he won the gold medal in Tokyo, giving India their first medal in Badminton at the Paralympics. He triumphed over Daniell Bethell from Great Britain by 21-14, 21-17. Earlier in the day in the SL3 classification, Bhagat engaged in a lot of long rallies against Daisuke Fujihara (21-11, 21-16) in the semi final. The 33-year-old emerged victorious over Fujihara most of the time.
Daisuke Fujihara could not get past any of the Indians he faced. In the bronze medal match he was defeated by Manoj Sarkar. The scoreboard read 22-20, 21-13 in favour of Manoj. With Manoj’s win, India achieved the rare feat of having two medals in the same event twice today. Earlier, Manish Narwal and Singhraj Adana won gold and silver respectively in Men’s Shooting 50m Pistol event.
Pramod Bhagat is the top seeded para Badminton Indian player, while also being the current world and Asian champion. He already has won 45 international medals. The list includes 4 world championship gold medals and 2 medals (a gold and a bronze) at the 2018 Asian Para Games.
In the final, Bhagat was off to a slow start in the opening game, but soon got into his stride. He took a 1 game lead in just 21 minutes, after he raced to a 15-9 lead and overcame a brief period of resistance from Bethel. But he did not lose his cool and showed incredible defensive skills to deny Bethell the point. In the second game, Bethel blazed to a 12-6 lead. But Bhagat fought back to draw level at 15-15 and then won the 2nd game in 24 minutes to secure the pole position.
Bhagat’s dominance was evident all through the week, as he won all four of his matches. He dropped only one game against compatriot Manoj Sarkar in his opening match. This is the maiden edition of the Games, where badminton has been introduced. Bhagat now has a chance to add to his medal tally when he goes up in the Mixed Doubles SL3-SU5 event with Palak Kohli, in the bronze medal fixture against Japan’s Daisuke Fujihara and Akiko Sugino.
Pramod Bhagat, hailing from the small town of Attabira in Odisha, has always been a dreamer. As a child, he was an avid Cricket-lover and proudly opened the innings as a batsman in local tournaments. However, in his teens, he developed a new-found liking for the sport of Badminton.
It was then that he had his first introduction with his first coach, SP Das. In the beginning he played in the able category. Gradually he switched to the para Badminton and made up his mind to pursue sport as a career in spite of some hindrance from his parents.
“My family had told me to give up the sport a few times, because they felt I was simply wasting my time. From 2005-2013 it was a very rough phase, since the sport in itself, was not well known. However, I firmly believed that patience would definitely lead to success,” Pramod said in an interview to Sportsavour.
On the other hand, 31-year-old Manoj Sarkar fell prey to polio when he was just thirteen months old, but took the impairment well in his stride. Manoj in an interview to Sportsavour once said, “Though I was a child with disability, my family never let me feel it. They treated me as a normal child and encouraged me in studies and sports.”
Manoj Sarkar triumphed over Fujihara in straight games, in a 47-minute encounter. The first game was turning out to be a cagey affair, before Sarkar picked up the first game 22-20. Sarkar, who is presently World No. 3 in his category, took the second game with ease, defeating the Japanese 21-13. The game started off with a 2-2 tie before Sarkar took a 3 point lead to make the score 5-2. At the interval, he was enjoying a five-point lead of 11-6. He eventually closed out the game quite easily at 21-13 to win the tie.