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233 medals in world events - What explains the amazing rise of India's para badminton players

With a rich haul of 233 medals since 2014, India's para badminton players have truly made their presence felt, nationally and internationally. The players are now eager and hungry to make their mark in the upcoming Paralympics. What's been the secret to their outstanding success - that's the focus on Story of the Week.

At the Guru Gobind Singh Sports College in Lucknow, Manoj Sarkar, world number player in the men's singles SL3 category, sweats it out under the keen eyes of India's para badminton coach Gaurav Khanna.

In less than 10 days, Manoj along with other top players will head to Ireland for the FZ Forza Irish Para Badminton Open. Some of the world's top shuttlers are likely to be here to test their mettle and size up the competition ahead of the 2020 Paralympics.

India's para shuttlers are strong contenders on the world scene given their outstanding performance since 2014. With an overall medal haul of 233, including 70 golds, in international championships, India's chances in the 2020 world event are rated high.

Yet, coach Khanna is taking no chances, putting his top players through the wringer.

The training has been extremely intense. I can feel that my game has acquired a considerable edge in these sessions. There were some niggling health issues that Gaurav sir has helped me address. His training is vastly superior to anyone else's because he not only makes us practice a lot but motivates us tremendously on court. He is like a guru because he is also technically strong, so he can advise us on the rules of the game, so we know our rights as players on the court. I am confident that all the India para shuttlers will win a medal in their respective events in the 2020 Paralympics - Manoj Sarkar, World Para Badminton Champ, SL3,

Manoj, who is from Uttarakhand, has won over 25 medals on the international stage so far. What is also heartening is that he does not stand alone. There are a good number of players showing great promise like Pramod Bhagat, Parul Parmar, Krishna Nagar and Tarun, to name a few. So, what explains this meteoric rise? The answer, says Coach Khanna, is greater support at every level.

"Thanks to the support of organisations like GoSports Foundation, camps are held regularly where we are able to train the players as well as detect new talent, says Khanna. "When there is so much exposure, the results will obviously be inspiring. He reminds us of the situation earlier when there were no camps. "People would play at home. Now the situation is different. There is continuous fire and the fire is catching every day.

The other significant change, according to Khanna, is the change in vision towards disability, specifically para sports. "It's no longer seen as an act of charity. These players are equal contenders.

Pramod Bhagat from Odisha, also rated among the top talents with strong medal prospects at the 2020 Paralympics, believes the training camps have helped change his game and prospects. "These camps have helped boost my game and overall strength. Also, the fact that we are playing regularly at international events is good because it exposes us to top quality players regularly.

There are more girls coming forward to play para badminton, always welcome news. Among the star female players is Parul Dalsukhbhai Parmar who will be playing her fifth world event in Ireland. Ranked world number one in the women's singles SL3, she won a gold in the 2018 Asian Games. "All the ranked players get a lot of support in terms of training and equipment and this has boosted our confidence.

Khanna hopes to see greater support from the government in terms of jobs for his players. "Manoj is the first player to win an Arjuna Award and get a job at Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. More such job opportunities would be welcome.

ALSO READ:India's para badminton players show their mettle in the Asian Para Games

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