World No.1 para shuttler Pramod Bhagat, who won a gold medal in the Tokyo Paralympics in SL3 category, battled through tremendous odds to make his country and state proud. As the nation watched with pride, a hero was born. People witnessed the shuttler reach the zenith but most are not aware of the struggles and extreme obstacles Bhagat had to face to reach where he has today. It would be shocking for most to learn that he did not have sufficient money to buy even a badminton racket.
Early stages of his career
The early stages of Bhagat’s career were marked by lack of sufficient financial resources and struggle to find even the very basic utility to play the sport he loved. He loved the game and did not take it up as just a hobby or pastime. The medalist wanted to pursue it as a serious profession and dream of making his nation proud one day.
Pramod’s story is unique as he was not born with a disability. He was five years old when he got afflicted with polio. Did it shatter his dream? NO. His father still reminisces about a young Bhagat trumping every other kid in the locality with ease despite his disability.
“He used to beat every person in the city when he was a young kid. When he was just five years old, he became a polio victim but it did not deter him,” said Rama Bhagat, the father of Pramod Bhagat.
Had it not been for his uncle and aunt who saw a beam of potential in the young shuttler, he would have been without a racket. As fate had other plans, his uncle and aunt got him a brand new racket in which he would keep practicing and refining his skills zealously.”Initially we did not have money to buy a badminton racket for him. Then his uncle and aunt managed to buy a racket for him and he started training for the game,” his father added.
While kids of his age played as a pastime, he would train hard with his new racket. The extra training would help him in due course of time.
Captivating Love for Badminton:
Pramod was fond of the game from a very young age. He would often watch his neighbors playing badminton which deeply inspired him to take up the sport seriously. Initially he found it captivating and gave the sport a shot. Gradually, as he played more and more, the spark of interest turned into a full-fledged passion.
One would think that an affliction like polio would set someone back but despite the diagnosis at a young age, his love for badminton never died down. With time,it only got intense.Instead of treating it as a career shattering impediment, Pramod took his adversity as an interesting challenge. To fine tune his skills and land him an edge he would often practice against senior players. This was a routine practice.There were days when he would have to wait for his turn for hours outside the court. The aspiring shuttler did everything in his capacity to be the best at what he was doing.
His high point came when he won a district level competition playing with players without any disability. That instilled in him great confidence and he slowly started focusing on para-badminton From the time he began focusing on para-badminton, there was no booking back as he smashed numerous records winning several championships and bringing laurels. His list of achievements multiplied manifold and he grew from strength to strength.
How Pramod prioritized smart work over hard work
In an interview to one the leading sports websites, Pramod emphasized on focusing on the game with your skill set and practice. Not simply hard work but presence of mind on the court and smart work reaps great benefits for you in the long run.
“Focus on the game with your skill sets. This is the foremost thing each and every player should be concerned about. The second most crucial aspect is the presence of the mind to act according to the situation. Only hard work is not the key but smart work as well.”
The ace shuttler also highlighted the role of his parents and family in supporting him in his long tours where he has to spend a fair bit of time away from family. He acknowledged that it’s a difficult part but what gets him through is a family that understands his vision despite not being aware of the sports environment at large.
Polio to Paralympics: A Tale of Grit
Hailing from a little known state, Odisha, Pramod truly has stamped his authority in the para-badminton field. Grappling with paucity of funds to an affliction like polio, no obstacle could hinder him from reaching his goal. A young polio-stricken boy picked himself up, turned his misfortune into strengths, and trained himself to become one of the finest para-shuttlers the country has ever seen. The Olympic Gold bears the mark of his sweat and blood he gave to the sport he loved so much, badminton.
Knowing his weakness and using it to his strength is what makes this DOER unstoppable.