Deepa Malik: Get ready for double energy from India at Paralympics

With exactly an year to go for the Paralympics, Indian athletes are raring to go. Badminton player Pramod Bhagat promises to give it all to strike gold in Tokyo.

By Naveen Peter and Subhayan Dutta

Former star Indian para-athlete Deepa Malik believes that the Tokyo Paralympics postponement has only whetted the longing for the Games among athletes, who will approach it with renewed vigour next year.

With the Paralympics scheduled to start from August 24, 2021, Indian para-athletes start another 365 days of hard work that will lead to the ultimate sporting challenge of their lives.

“It’s an exciting moment. A year from today, we will be having the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games,” President of the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) Deepa Malik told the Olympic Channel.

“You know, when you feel that you are losing something is the only time when you value it. And I think now the athletes will value it even more,” added the Paralympic silver-medallist from Rio 2016.

International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons said that the opening ceremony will hold significance beyond sport as well calling it a “symbol that we have left the pandemic behind” and a victory against the COVID-19 outbreak.

It was in March when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo Organizing Committee announced the postponement of the Olympic Games owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deepa Malik looks Paralympics postponed from a scope of opportunity that has strengthened athletes' resolve. Photo: Instagram

While this also meant postponing years of hard work by numerous athletes, Deepa Malik looks at it from a scope of opportunity that has only strengthened the resolve of athletes.

“I think the pandemic situation has only made us stronger and the eagerness to participate and the want of getting out onto the field at the Olympic stage has only grown stronger,” she said.

“This was an opportunity that was lost but has now come back to them,” Deepa added, “I think the killer instinct and the josh (energy) will surely be double.”

Pramod Bhagat ready and firing

The journey from despair to revival was vividly experienced by ace Indian para-badminton player and the current world No.1, Pramod Bhagat.

Bhagat had just won four gold medals at the Peru Para-Badminton International as well as the Brazil Para-Badminton International Championships in Sao Paulo when the Paralympics were postponed.

While the reality was too harsh for the four-time world champion, Bhagat bounced back quickly after realising the bigger picture.

“Only after a few days of sitting and thinking about it, I had realized that health is more important than sport,” Pramod Bhagat told the Olympic Channel.

“If I was healthy, I could play in 2021,” he reasoned.

Bhagat used the lockdown duration to iron out all the flaws in his game as well as keep himself fit for the national camp, which will start once the COVID-19 situation improves.

“The Paralympics postponement gave me enough time to work on the weaknesses in my game,” Bhagat pointed out, “Had I played this year with the flaws I might have lost as well.”

“We have plans to go to the para-centre in Lucknow where we will start training again under national coach and Dronacharya Awardee Gaurav Khanna.”

“Now, I will be more focused and prepared than ever,” Bhagat added.