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Tokyo 2020 Paralympic stars in action at 4th National Para-Badminton C'ships

Orissa,Sports,Badminton

Author : Indo Asian News Service

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Bhubaneswar, Dec 24 (IANS) The country's top para shuttlers including Tokyo 2020 Paralympic gold medallists Pramod Bhagat and Krishna Nagar returned to action at the 4th National Para-Badminton Championships that got underway here on Friday.

Over 500 para shuttlers from 25 states have gathered in the Odisha capital for the three-day event vying for top honours in 22 sports events in one of the biggest ever Para-Badminton Nationals, which is being held in two venues at the East Coast Railway Indoor Stadium and Udaan Badminton Academy in Bhubaneshwar.

On Friday, qualifying round matches were held in all categories, with each match played for 30 points, one game. Main draw matches will be of 21 points best of three games. The top stars will get into action on Saturday.

Local star Bhagat, who starts as the title favourite in the SL3 category, will be hoping to deliver his best in front of his home crowd.

"After the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, this is the first tournament at home and everyone is pumped up to give their best. The training has been very good. For me personally, I am very excited and honoured to play at my home ground. At the same time, there's a responsibility to perform well and make my stat" proud," said Bhagat, who is competing in SL3 men's singles, men's doubles, and mixed doubles events representing Odisha.

Nagar, already a five-time National Champion, stressed that a good result at the nationals will set the tone for the New Year.

"This tournament is very important to me as I am returning to action after the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. A good result here will start the New Year on a strong note. I am aiming for two gold medals here," Nagar was quoted as saying by the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) in a release on Friday.

"Life has changed a lot since the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics gold medal. The attitude of people has changed, the public recognizes you and your family. My focus, for now, is doing well at the World Championships and the Asian Para Games in 2022 before the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. I want to take it step by step," said Nagar, who beat Hong Kong's Chu Man Kai in three games for the men's singles SH6 Gold at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

The tournament will also see the participation of Tokyo 2020 Paralympic medallists Suhas Yathiraj, Tarun Dhillon, Manoj Sarkar besides Sukant Kadam, Prem Kumar Ale, Raj Kumar among o'hers in the men's events.

Men's singles SL4 player Kadam, representing Maharashtra, was hoping to end the year on a high after missing out on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Parmar, Kohli, Joshi lead women's challenge

The women's challenge will be led by Paralympians Parul Parmar (women's SL3), Palak Kohli (women's SU5), and reigning World Champion Manasi Joshi (women's SL3).

Coach Gaurav Khanna was hopeful of his shuttlers delivering their best yet again as they look ahead to major events next year.

"After our Paralympics show, Para-Badminton has gained a lot of popularity in the country. There has also been a lot of interest among youngsters. This Championships will be a stepping stone for many Paralympians in the making. The stars will also return to competition mode after a little break following the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and I am hoping they will come up with their best performance here."

"I am also keen to spot talent for 2028, 2032, and 2036 Paralympic Games and I am expecting some new stuff," said Khanna.

The Championships, which was suspended last year due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, is being conducted by the Para Sports Association of Odisha along with the Department of Sports and Youth Affairs Govt of Odisha, under the aegis of Paralympic Committee of India and Badminton Association of India.

--IANS

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