Hope to meet Tendulkar after winning medal at Paralympics next year: Bhagat

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has turned a nightmare for many, but for Indias para-badminton star Pramod Bhagat, it has turned out to be a ‘blessing in disguise.

Bhagat, a World no. 1 and the reigning World Champion in SL3 singles and doubles category, has been confined to his home in Bhubaneswar for more than four months now. But he has no complaints. Instead he has used the downtime to attain better fitness and mental strength and is now raring to go all out for his dream of a paralympic medal at the Tokyo Games.

“I have made the most of this lockdown time to work on my fitness and strengthen my weaknesses. During our usual training time, we distribute our time on our skills, technique, tactics and fitness. Now that our training has been halted, I had ample of time to focus on my fitness and mental well-being,” said Bhagat.

“And I am more than satisfied with the outcome of these four months of work out at home’ I have never felt so good about my body; am fitter than ever before and, have gained strength in my left (disabled) leg and strengthened my core. I am able to move the leg more comfortably, which is a great satisfaction. Mentally I feel very confident about my movements now.

“The COVID-19 is a big challenge for the world now. For me, however, this lost time has helped me work on my biggest challenge — the movement in my disabled leg,” added the left-handed shuttler who was affected by polio in his left leg in his childhood.

The 32-year-old, who is country’s brightest prospect of winning a gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, said the postponement of the Games had brought ‘disappointment’. And it took some time for him to regroup and start his fitness training again.

“Initially I was a bit depressed with the way things were turning out. I have waited and trained all these years to play at the Paralympic Games. First, we had hopes at Rio 2016 and then now when para badminton was making its debut in Tokyo, it was postponed. It was frustrating. But then, training and staying positive was the minimum I could do to keep myself going.

“Also, I kept saying myself that I have to stay fit be ready for the Games, even though I have to wait another five years.

“The postponement of the Games has definitely taken our mind and body back to relaxed mode. Thus, it will be important staying active and maintaining the fitness level,” said the five-time World Champion who has now started court training after four months gap at the Railway Indoor Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

For now, his dream is to win a paralympic medal in Tokyo next year and meet his idol and cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, whom he describes as a “humble human being and true sportsman”.

“A paralympic medal will fulfil two of my dreams at a time. Tendulkar ji is my idol and he met the Olympic and Paralympic medallists of Rio 2016, even congratulated them. I hope I can meet him next year after the Tokyo 2020 Games with a paralympic medal around my neck.”