Para shuttler Pramod Bhagat wants to emulate legendary Lin Dan by winning an unprecedented five World Championship titles and also stand atop the podium at the 2024 Paris Games.
The 34-year-old Indian bagged his fourth world world title in the men’s singles SL3 class (Standing/Lower limb impairment/severe) last month in Tokyo. The title-run took his overall tally to 11 World Championships medals, including six gold, two silver and three bronze across categories.
He had won two gold in men’s doubles in 2013 Dortmund and 2019 Basel editions, two silver medals came in doubles in 2015 Stoke Mandeville and this year in Tokyo. He claimed two singles bronze in 2007 and 2017, besides a bronze in men’s doubles in 2007.
“I want to be a five-time world champion like Lin Dan in singles. So that is one of my targets, along with winning the 2024 Paralympics gold,” Bhagat told PTI during an interaction.
Two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan is the only shuttler to win five World championship titles. Bhagat, who has the distinction of reaching the finals in all the editions, barring the 2007 and 2017 World Championships, said a “smart move” of shifting base to Bangalore for training helped him in winning his fourth world title.
“I shifted to PPBA (Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy) in Bangalore in August. I was not performing well so I decided to change the place and looked for the guidance of experienced coaches such as Vimal Kumar, DK Sen and Sagar Chopra,” he said.
“I trained for two months in Bangalore ahead of the World Championships and the results show. From February second week, the qualification cycle for the Paris Paralympics is starting, so I plan to start training from January first week. I feel confident that if I continue training in Bangalore I will be able to achieve my targets. We have to make such smart moves if we have to perform,” he added.
Bhagat also said he “plans to train in Paris from time to time for a month or so ahead of the Games.”
The Bihar-born shuttler had claimed three gold medals in Spanish Para-Badminton International II, before returning with 2 silver and 1 bronze at Spanish Para-Badminton International. He also secured a gold medal at the 4th Fazza Dubai Para badminton international in May.
However, he couldn’t go the distance in Brazil and Canada, returning with two bronze medals and a silver respectively in April and June. He also finished runner-up in men’s singles in Thailand in August.
“In the Olympic year, I had won a lot of tournaments but this year I couldn’t win much, so I slipped to number two rank in the world from top position. I’m disappointed a little but I regained the world title last month, so I am happy about that,” said the Padma Shree Awardee.
“So going ahead to regain the number one spot will be one of the targets.”
Bhagat has also been nominated for Male Para badminton Player of the year by the international world Federation (BWF).
“It would be quite difficult to win the award as I didn’t win many tournaments this year. I am not expecting too much. I have been nominated for the award for three successive years, so let’s see what happens,” he said.
“I am focusing on the 2024 Olympics, that is my main priority. Next year, there is Asian Games and also World championships in 2024 is another important event.”
Bhagat is happy with the way para-badminton is growing in the country.
“If you look at the World championships results, it was subdued this year as we had won more than 20 medals last time and this time it was 16. But many young players have picked up the game, there has been a lot of growth after the Paralympics. Players like Hardik (Makkar), Nihal (Gupta), Nithya (Sre) and Manisha (Ramadass), all are playing well. So the future is bright for Indian para-badminton.”