INDIA: The simple walk with an air of calm, confidence, and steely determination, are the key attributes of Para-Badminton player Manoj Sarkar that make him stand apart from the crowd. The whole world has acknowledged his abilities. He is receiving numerous felicitations and adoration from the masses. But, the 31-year-old player is unaffected by all as his eyes are set on the next big goal.
Arjuna awardee Sarkar is the pride of Uttrakhand. Sarkar won a bronze medal in the men singles SL3 event at Tokyo Paralympics 2021 and made the whole country proud. He was honored by a number of government bodies, public sector organizations, and private players. Recently he was invited to be felicitated by Aahana Corbett The Wilderness in Jim Corbett.
Sarkar’s road to success
The para-badminton player never had it easy right from his early childhood, he was one year old when the wrong medication affected his leg and left him with a limp for life.
Sarkar sounded nostalgic while recalling those days, “Due to my condition I was often ignored. As a child, I remember an incident where my cousins and brothers got the badminton racket, but I was left out. Obviously, I was hurt and furious; my mother tried to compensate, she earned some money and gave me Rs 10 to buy a second-hand badminton racket. I channelized that anger by practicing the whole day against the wall. Unknowingly I was getting ready for the future.”
Sarkar started playing when he was five years old and soon was competing with able-bodied players. These early days of training helped him in honing up his skills and understanding the techniques of the game.
The para-badminton player never let his disability came in the way of his dreams. On the contrary, it made him more determined and committed to sports. “I love to put all the doubters wrong. I get motivated when people think I can’t do it. Honestly, it put me out of my comfort zone and make me more focused on improving the game.” shares Sarkar.
But it is easier said than done, initially, no one was ready to sponsor him. In order to play his first international tournament, his mother who was suffering from cancer, mortgaged their house to raise funds. Her unfailing faith in her son’s ability paved a way for his future wins.
Situation of Paralympic badminton in India
Currently, things have improved, the government has implemented various schemes for the players at the central level. A major attitude shift has happened; the Paralympics players are generating the same buzz as Olympic players. Though still, the sport has a long way to go.
More awareness needs to be created amongst the masses, especially the parents, around the sport. Sarkar firmly believes with the right attitude and proper training, the country can witness more participation in the field. His words conveyed the same. “There is a lot of scopes but the player needs to take the first step. Everyone will assist him later, but that initial step is the job of the player. Also, all those who have already achieved a mark need to be more giving and make it easy for the upcoming players.”
On asking, what was the most remarkable moment during the tournament, he replied with a shy smile, “When I was about to go into the court, Honorable Prime Minister Mr.Modi talked to us over the phone, he asked us to focus on the game and not on winning. He mentioned clearly you all will be felicitated whether you win a medal or not. These words filled me with energy and lifted the pressure.”
The journey has just started for the young paralympic badminton player, he is determined to change the color of his medal to gold. And going by his track record this doesn’t look like a far-fetched dream.