Like Saina Nehwal, Pramod Bhagat aims to inspire younger generation of badminton players
Tokyo Paralympics gold medallist Pramod Bhagat maintained that London 2012 bronze medallist Saina Nehwal was the inspiration behind his glittering career. He now wants to bring life to a full cycle by inspiring the next generation of shuttlers and believes his success in Tokyo will play a key role in it.
Bhagat, 33, was up against his familiar-foe Daniel Bethell of Great Britain in the men's singles SL3 gold medal match on Saturday. It took him 45 minutes to upstage his opponent in straight games and capture the top spot on the podium.
"Yes, the (Tokyo) Paralympics medal will help (me inspire the next generation). I was inspired by Saina Nehwal and her win at the Olympics gave me and many others the boost we needed and I hope it's the same way this win gives India the platform for more youngsters to take up the sport and play it at the highest level," Bhagat told Olympics.com.
Like his performance in Tokyo, his celebration after winning gold also proved to be memorable. The Indian star ran to Indian coach Gaurav Khanna and embraced him. It was a moment of relief and joy for Bhagat after putting in all the hard yards for that very win.
"It was a spontaneous reaction, I have been dreaming about this medal since I took up badminton as a sport. I was ecstatic when I won the point, usually I don't celebrate like this but this medal is also not like any other medal," the World No.1 said.
"On the podium it was the fastest man (Usain) Bolt pose to show my confidence that a brilliant journey has just started and a long way to go."
It is also his mindset that has helped him become one of the most successful para-shuttlers in the world. Bhagat reiterated that he doesn't like to take undue stress and has hardly been serious about anything in his life.
"It's always been the case that I don't like to take things seriously. But as soon as it comes to training or practise I am very serious. These two things are very important for me. I have always believed that there is no point in tagging stress. It's always better to stay calm and composed," the Bhubaneshwar-based player said.
His moment of success at Tokyo Paralympics or double gold medals (singles and men's doubles) at 2019 Para-Badminton World Championship, however, did not come easy as he had to go through a challenging phase in 2017.
"It was just a bad phase. I wasn't in the right frame of mind. There were a lot of things going on which were not related to the game. It was difficult but it was very crucial. I got my focus back," Bhagat recalled."I did train a lot harder at that point so that my thoughts don't wander. My family, friends and coach helped me come back to a good mental space. Now when I play I am at peace and calm and this is what I enjoy doing," he added.
And it is his will to succeed and grit are lessons for aspiring shuttlers.