A five-year-old boy in Odisha found himself polio affected and the doctor asked for a quick decision whether to drive the effect of polio towards legs or hands. His father chose hands and polio left his left leg ineffective but not his beliefs to go for an extraordinary journey. Today, the boy is known as one of the most prominent Indian para-shuttlers, who has top-notched the world ranking in SL3 category-Pramod Bhagat. Regarded as one of the finest para-shuttlers of India, Pramod has bagged numerous accolades in badminton including the World Championships and Asian Para Games. The world knows his calibre through his whopping stack of medals and shields but not the journey in which Pramod’s parents Late Kailash Bhagat and Mrs. Kusum Devi, and his coaches Mr. S. P. Das and Mr. Gaurav Khanna played a major role to polish his potential in the sports and to encourage him for his dreams. So, here we have some interesting pieces of conversations with Pramod Bhagat that are inevitably going to fill up your soul with courage and to dare for your dreams just like Pramod.
What was the first feeling when you heard your name as a winner at the Para Asian Games 2018?
In 2010, I made my first attempt at the Para Asian Games, but as I was a beginner and unaware of the smart tactics of the game, I lost the match that dragged my morale and enthusiasm. The second attempt was in 2014 when I had a small injury that inhibited my performance at the event, and I failed to win a single medal for the country. But in 2018, I was very much firm that I have to make my nation proud anyhow and hence, I prepared well for my D-day. I have gone through in-depth research about the game tactics, watched my previous videos, estimated my errors and toiled hard for respective improvements. When I entered the court, I was a bit nervous, yet confident that I would perform better this time and made my nation proud with my performance that I eventually did by clinching the gold medal, defeating the same opponent with whom I had a fierce clash in 2014.
Has life changed after the Para Asian Games gold medal?
I am the same as I was before the accomplishment, but yes I received a lot of recognition, fame and respect from the society, family and friends. I had the golden opportunity to meet our honourable PM Narendra Modi. He appreciated our efforts and encouraged us to keep it on. That was a very memorable meeting and an excellent experience for me.
From where did it all start?
I used to watch my neighbours playing badminton during my teenage and that’s how I developed an interest in it. I found the sport quite fascinating and decided to give it a try. I played well and with time, developed my interest in sports. So here I am.
Who's your role model and why?
My father is my role model as well as my strength. I have always followed him to live my life with high spirit. He cared for me and at the same time, had complete trust in me. He had always supported me for my choices and gave me the freedom to fly high.
According to you, what is the most important factor in training sessions?
Focus. I mean to focus on the game with all your strength and practice. This is the prime thing every player should concern about. They all toil hard for their dreams but what matters the most is to focus on whatever you are doing and give all your true efforts for that particular thing. The second thing is the presence of mind to act according to the situation. Only hard work is not the key but smart work as well.
What keeps you going for your dreams?
Olympics is the dream of every athlete and mine as well. I want to make my country proud by crediting medals through my historical performances at the biggest sports stage-Olympics.
How are you training for your upcoming competitions?
Our Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) is going to arrange various training camps for athletes. Recently, one camp has been held in Lucknow by SAI. Physiotherapists, trainers and other facilities will be availed there to all athletes to train for excellent performance at various sports events. To participate in international stages such as the Olympics is not a cup of tea nowadays as the competition is on the verge but one should go with the aim to win and not just to participate. The initial training is always tough as we need to understand the tactics and techniques first, along with planning how we have to approach for the main game. We have the World Championship before the Olympics and our performance is quite significant to step ahead for the Olympics, so I hope we may perform well and get qualified to win gold in the Olympics.
How tough was it to accept polio?
I was 5 years old when I came to know about my polio. But with time, I accepted this and moved on in my life. When I started playing badminton, my fellow players who were senior to me seemed to be a bit hesitant to include me in their games, and I had to wait for my turn outside the court for a year but eventually, they let me impart after realising my potential with the racket. Initially, I used to play with able-bodied players at the district level and even won a district-level competition. Then I came to know about the para-badminton sport and the respective categories. Later, I learned the techniques of the game and improved a lot.
What would Pramod Bhagat be if not a badminton player?
See, there was nothing like I had a keen interest in badminton only. In fact, I was initially interested in cricket. We had a badminton court some kilometres away from our home in our colony which was made by young players of the colony who used to play badminton there, and I used to watch them playing whenever I had time. Watching them play with great enthusiasm made me go for the sport as I noticed that this sport doesn’t need much running (giggles) and the player has to focus more on target through hands. These were the factors that biased me more and more for the game, and I started developing interest. Today, it’s my passion for which I am known so far all around the country. As I grew up along with my friends who belong from business families and even my father had a business. So if I had to opt any other thing in my life, I think I would go for my own business or doing a job somewhere, but I am blessed that I found the right path for myself at the right time.
What is the most important asset a sportsperson should have?
The most important factor for a player is his physical and mental capabilities, and he should always beware of injuries. I was the world number one shuttler in SL3 category but was dragged down in ranking because of my injuries and even have to wait for two years to get back on the court. So what I believe is taking care of yourself is the prime thing while playing.
How tough was the final clash of Para-Asian Games?
During my last attempt at the Para-Asian Games, I had a tough clash with Ukun Rukaendi in the finals, who belonged from the host country. During the match, he had full support and encouragement from the crowd, and a few were shouting for my win. He had previously defeated one of our fellow shuttlers Manoj Sarkar from the confidence and strong morale that he received from his people. Support is a great advantage for a player that helps. As it is said, when a player plays, his mind plays as well. So when you start feeling as if you’re losing, you eventually lose. And when it came to me during my final clash with him, I made up my mind not to focus on anything but my game, that helped me sustain at the court and finally, I had the gold medal.
How tough was to defeat your fellow shuttler Manoj Sarkar during the Thailand Para-Badminton International tournament of 2018?
Manoj Sarkar is junior to me by three years. When he came opposite to me, I lost to him three times. Even in my 2014 attempt, I lost to him many times and he gave me tough competition for my dismal performance. Of course, when you lose from your junior, it gives a big jolt to your confidence. I realised that I needed to win by him before going for other opponents because if I am unable to win in my own country, how could I win against opponents from other nations. But playing with Manoj is a very fine experience. He is very fast, uses the presence of mind and never exhausts from playing. He gave me a tough competition and strengthened my mind to win over my limits.
Are you looking forward to coach the future of badminton?
Right now, I have only one thing to focus which is to bring an Olympic gold medal for the nation. But, whenever I get time to watch the performance of the budding players, I never skip guiding and encouraging them by correcting their flaws and yes, I will definitely go for coaching after achieving my goals that I have right now. You can consider me selfish but I think until I don’t get fine accomplishment to inspire others and encourage them, I should focus on my own game. I hope one day I can be an inspiration for others through my achievements.
How do you make a balance between your personal life and sport?
Yes, it is difficult as a player as I am often on tours to perform at various sports stages around the world. So I hardly get time to spend with my family, but I am lucky enough to have such a family that understands my vision and supports my goals of life in spite of not being so aware of the world of sports and environment where my family lives, being a rural area. People play just for hobby and entertainment.
How does your family support you for your passion?
I have a very supportive family that cares a lot for me. They have always supported me and encouraged my choices in life. Especially, my parents who have been there to step-up my morale. My father expired in 2006 due to some severe health issues. That time, I had to play at a national level event. I insisted on staying with him, but he pushed me to go and play. I agreed to go, but when I returned from the event, he had passed away.
Share a moment when you felt that you couldn’t quit and raised to win.
There was a time as I have already told you when I had a severe injury that led me out of action for a long span which was essential for me. My morale was so down that time that I thought I could never get off from the phase and my career would end up. But my coach Mr. Gaurav Khanna proved to be a saviour who helped me a lot to get out of my depression and encouraged me to rise again for my dreams and goals. I believed to him and gave myself another chance with more focus and sweat. Things worked like magic and here I am in front of you.
What are your expectations from Sportsmatik.com as a multi-sports community?
I first came to know about your site through social media and found it interesting, but when I checked out the whole site, I saw an innovative idea to highlight sportspersons belonging from various fields and sports. There are more than 200 sports. Any player can enrol himself and highlight his performance. I really must say that your efforts are quite appreciable and I wish you all the very best to work with all your spirit and zeal for such a noble cause.
Pramod Bhagat is now a part of Sportsmatik.com. Checkout his profile at the link given below-