India had returned from the Tokyo Paralympics with its best-ever performance, winning 19 medals (five gold, eight silver, and six bronze).
Pramod Bhagat, a gold medalist for India in the Paralympics in Tokyo, said on Friday that he is confident that India will double its medal count at the prestigious multi-sport event in Paris, which is only three years away. India had returned from the Tokyo Paralympics with its best-ever performance, winning 19 medals (five gold, eight silver, and six bronze). The previous best tally for the country at a single edition of the Paralympic Games was four.
“I am confident that the medal tally will double (in Paris in 2024),” said the three-time world champion Bhagat, who claimed the yellow metal in the men’s singles SL3 class, during a panel discussion at ‘India Today Conclave’. “Our Prime Minister is fully supportive of the athletes. The PCI is taking care of its athletes well, if the PM is with us and the facilities are being given, it is possible,” he added.
Bhagat, who was diagnosed with polio when he was four years old, became interested in sports after watching his neighbours play. He began by competing against able-bodied players before transitioning to competitive para-badminton in 2006. “The struggles in life teach us a lot and what we can achieve,” the world number 1 said. “It is important how much confidence we have and not how much we train or play. It is important how you make up your mind and move forward,” he added.
Suhas Yathiraj, India’s first-ever IAS officer to win a Paralympic medal, described the Tokyo Paralympics as a watershed moment, saying it can provide a significant boost to para-sports in the same way that winning the World Cup in 1983 did for cricket in the country. Yathiraj had won silver in the men’s singles SL4 badminton event in Tokyo.
“1983 was a watershed moment for Indian cricket when Kapil dev lifted the world cup. Similarly, 2020 Tokyo is a watershed moment for Indian Paralympics. You will see a sea change in attitude,” Yathiraj, the Noida District Magistrate, said.
“I see a huge difference in the way people perceive, nothing succeeds like success. The way the country is celebrating both Olympic and Paralympic medals is very good, awareness is increasing gradually,” he added.
Table tennis player Bhavina Patel, who won a historic silver medal in her Paralympic Games debut in Tokyo, said she was worried about qualifying for the games when the pandemic hit and recalled the difficulties she faced.
“It was a big challenge during the pandemic. First, I had to qualify for the Paralympics. With great difficulty, I could qualify for the Paralympics,” said Patel, who became only the second Indian female athlete ever 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 player,” she added.