CHENNAI: Soon after claiming a historic gold in the men’s singles SL3 category in the Tokyo Paralympics on Friday, India’s para shuttler Pramod Bhagat dropped his racquet and jumped into the arms of coach Gaurav Khanna.
“We are like a family. We have been training together for years. He is like my father, big brother and friend and I wanted to celebrate the moment with him,” Bhagat later said. Manoj Sarkar, the bronze medallist in the category, too echoed the lines. “It was Gaurav sir who made me aware of the para games,” said Sarkar.
These words encapsulate Khanna’s contribution to Indian para badminton. The sport made its debut at this Paralympics and Khanna had to scout talent and train them. He had the vision to invest on players, disable-friendly courts and training facilities.
Khanna went a step ahead when the lockdown last year made it difficult for the shuttlers to stay and train together. He bought a piece of land (2,500 sq ft) and constructed a state-of-the-art accommodation-cum-recovery centre on the outskirts of Lucknow by raising a loan of over Rs 1 crore.
When the national head coach was conferred with Dronacharya Award last year, he invested his prize money of Rs 10 lakh towards building the Gaurav Khanna Excellia Badminton Academy. “Earlier, we had rented flats but they were not disable-friendly. So I decided to build a place for the athletes. The facility has nine rooms and one big hall. And it’s disabled-friendly. It has a gym, steam bath, sauna bath, hydrotherapy, jacuzzi pool and massage centre,” Khanna told this daily.
12 Medals won by India in Paralympics before Tokyo (participated in 11 editions)
17 Medals won by India in Tokyo Paralympics already (competition ends on Sunday)