Pramod Bhagat wins historic badminton gold

4-time world champion Pramod Bhagat scripted historical past by changing into the primary Indian ever to win a badminton gold on the Paralympics on the Tokyo 2020 Video games on Saturday. Prime seed Bhagat defeated Nice Britain’s Daniel Bethell, the second seed, 21-14, 21-17 within the last of the lads’s singles SL3 class.

Bhagat was completely dominant via the week, successful all his 4 matches and solely dropping one recreation, in opposition to compatriot Manoj Sarkar in his opening match, on the way in which to the gold medal.

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Sarkar gained bronze in the identical occasion after defeating Japan’s Daisuke Fujihara 22-20, 21-13 within the bronze medal match. Ranked third within the SL 3 class on the planet rankings, Sarkar is a a number of medalist on the Para Badminton World Championships and Asian Video games.

That is the primary time that badminton is being performed on the Paralympics. Bhagat may have an opportunity so as to add to his medal tally once more on Sunday, when he pairs up with Palak Kohli within the combined doubles SL3-SU5 bronze medal match in opposition to Japan’s Fujihara and Akiko Sugino.

“That is very particular to me, it is my dream come true. Bethell actually pushed me however I simply saved my calm and performed to my strengths,” Bhagat stated after the match.

“I want to dedicate this to my mother and father and to everybody who has supported me all through. I am glad I might make India proud.” Bhagat stated he had a technique in place for his rival.

“I performed the identical opponent in Japan two years in the past and I misplaced. That was a studying alternative for me. Immediately it was the identical stadium and the identical atmosphere, and I devised a technique to win. I used to be very decided.”

Bhagat’s medal is India’s fourth gold of those Paralympic Video games after Avani Lekhara within the ladies’s 10m air rifle standing SH1 occasion, Sumit Antil within the males’s javelin throw F64 class and Manish Narwal within the combined 50m pistol SH1 occasion earlier at this time.

India’s 4 golds are simply their most in a single version of the Paralympics. They’d beforehand gained 4 golds throughout 11 editions that they participated in from 1968 to 2016.

Formally, India’s medals tally on the Tokyo Paralympics now stands at 17 medals, together with 4 golds, seven silvers and 6 bronzes. Their earlier finest was 4 medals on the Stoke Mandeville and New York Paralympics in 1984 and Rio Paralympics in 2016.

Bhagat and Bethell have been shut within the preliminary exchanges earlier than Bhagat used his superior expertise and nous to tug forward. He then maintained a cushty lead all through the opening recreation. The going was tougher for Bhagat within the second recreation as he trailed 4-12 at one stage earlier than staging a exceptional restoration to attract stage and finally pull forward.

Bhagat had gained two golds on the BWF Para World Championships within the SL3 males’s singles and doubles classes in 2019 and is among the most embellished gamers within the SL3 class.

Bhagat, born within the small city of Attabira in Odisha, was at all times a dreamer. “I used to be the quintessential honhaar baccha (devoted baby),” he had told ESPN earlier this yr. “I at all times aspired to do my finest, and I used to choose up abilities fairly rapidly. It was nearly as if I had an in-built sportsman inside me.”

Affected by polio on the age of 5, he developed a defect in his left leg. Nonetheless, not as soon as did that cease him from pursuing his love for sport.

As a baby, he liked cricket and was a proud opening batsman in native tournaments. In his teenagers although, Bhagat developed a new-found liking for badminton. “It was not very fashionable again within the early 2000s. However I used to be fascinated by it.” As a 14-year-old, Bhagat would end his research to rapidly go to a close-by playground to look at his faculty seniors play in makeshift out of doors courts. “When everybody would watch TV within the evenings, I’d go and watch badminton,” he had stated

His dedication reaped rewards as he quickly began coaching with them. “I needed to wait a bit as a result of I used to be a junior and was disabled, however as soon as I began, everybody was impressed with my progress,” he had stated. “I even turned a district champion. That is how I made a decision to play it professionally.”

He was then launched to his first coach, SP Das, who he credit for shaping him as knowledgeable para athlete. “He was my first mentor. I used to play outdoor, whereas it was an indoor sport professionally. He was the one who helped me make that shift, and finally grow to be a world participant.”

The 33-year-old Bhagat, the present World No. 1, earlier secured a 21-11, 21-16 win over Japan’s Fujihara within the first males’s singles SL3 class semifinal, which lasted 36 minutes.

With solely half of the courtroom being utilized in SL3 classification, which is for individuals with standing/decrease limb impairment, Bhagat and Fujihara engaged in a number of lengthy rallies and the Indian got here up on prime more often than not. Bhagat, the highest seed, trailed 2-4 early within the opening recreation however a sequence of overhead drops helped him claw again. The duo have been 8-8 earlier than the Indian entered the interval at 11-8.

After the break, he continued his good run and finally pocketed the opening recreation with six straight factors. It was a Bhagat present within the second recreation in addition to the Indian led all the way in which to prevail.

“It was an important recreation in opposition to Fujihara, he pushed me with some nice pictures. However I had a plan and I executed it very nicely. I’m blissful I’ve reached my maiden Paralympic finals however the work just isn’t completed but,” stated Bhagat after his match.

Within the different males’s singles SL3 semifinal, Sarkar could not get into any kind of rhythm in opposition to second-seeded Bethell, taking place 8-21, 10-21.

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