Long way to go: Despite sparkling performances, Indian para-athletes struggling for basics facilities

NEW DELHI: Showing exemplary grit and gumption, Indian para-athletes have excelled at the biggest stage but they still have to struggle for basic facilities in their everyday and sporting life.
The Indian contingent returned with its best-ever medal haul from the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021, bagging 19 medals and at the recently concluded Para Asian Games in Hangzhou, India created history by winning an unprecedented 111 medals, including 29 gold, 31 silver and 51 bronze.
Star Indian para table tennis player Bhavina Patel, the reigning Commonwealth Games champion, who added a para Asian Games gold to her Paralympics silver, feels more is needed to empower the para athletes.
“There are still a lot of government offices that are not wheelchair accessible. When you go to foreign countries you never feel disabled, everything is so accessible. Facilities like these will make us feel more independent,” Bhavina told PTI.
“A lot of the states don’t have policies for para athletes that should be made as soon as possible. There are differences in facilities of para athletes and normal athletes, so that should be completed.
“There is a lot of improvement from before but to take it to the next level all these areas require improvement.The para athletes are trying to improve at their own level but if they have the support of these things then they can do better,” she added.
Indian para shuttlers have excelled in their discipline, returning with bagful of medals from most competitions they participate in.
But Paralympic champion shuttler Krishna Nagar, who returned with two medal from the Para Asian Games, feels they can do better if they have train in bigger sized halls.
“In badminton we need agility, speed and power and also need to be alert. It is a speed game. Most big tournaments have big halls. But a lot of the times the halls are small at the time of training (in India), that leads to slight issue as the shuttle travels fast or just feels weird to us.”
“When we travel for tournaments and one day before the event we go to the venue and train we feel weird that the court is so big. The academies that are being developed should note the dimensions.
“I train in Jaipur where I have hall which has 11 courts, it has been provided by the government, but in a lot of places that facility is not there.”
Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, who met with a few of the Asian Para Games medallist on Tuesday, said the government is actively working to provide the infrastructure needed for para athletes.
“We are making some new centres for para games in Bhopal and a few other place. If there is one big centre in each zone. We will also talk to some state governments that some modifications be made in them so they can be used for games,” Thakur said.
The Minister also said that a Khelo India Para Games is in the works.

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