Manish Kaurav was on the water when the VL2 women's 200m event started with his wife Prachi Yadav participating in it. Given the magnitude of the event — the 2022 ICF Paracanoe World Cup — at Poznan, Poland, the para-kayaker was bound to be nervous as well as excited at the same time. His event (KL3 Men 200m) was scheduled next but he was glued to the big screen showing the progress of the participants in the ongoing event.
"Once the event got over, I started checking her name and to my amazement, she was there in third place. It was historic as India had never won a medal in World Cup whether it was for able-bodied athletes or para-athletes. The Indian participants had never reached the World Cup finals before this event and here Prachi has bagged bronze," Manish, who hails from Madhya Pradesh like his wife, told this daily from the venue.
He along with Manjeet Singh (VL2 200m) reached the finals of their respective events, also making history in the process. Another Indian participant, Jaideep, qualified for the semifinals of VL3 men's 200m event but could not progress further.
Prachi had become the first para-canoeist from the country to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics last year. In March this year, she had bagged gold in VL2 200m at the Asian Canoe Sprint Championships in Thailand. She has a disability below her waist.
Prachi reached Poland for the four-day event, which concluded on Sunday to improve her rankings. The historic bronze proved to be icing on the cake.
"I cannot express my feelings. When I arrived here, the only thing in my mind was to gain a few ranking points but the third-place finish made me more determined to go after my ultimate goal, which is to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics and win a medal for my country," said Prachi.
With the timing of 1:01.71s, she finished behind Susan Seipel of Australia (1:01.54s) and Canada's Brianna Hennessy (1:01.58s), who won gold and silver, respectively.
With the Paris Games just over two years away, Prachi's immediate aim is to medal at the World Championships. "This medal will give me confidence when I compete at the 2022 ICF Paracanoe World Championships in Halifax, Canada (August 3-7). I hope to finish on the podium there as well."
Already a champion para swimmer, Prachi switched to paracanoe on her coach Virender Kumar Dabas' insistence in 2018. She then moved to Bhopal from Gwalior. Coach Mayank Thakur, who is also the chairperson of the Indian Paracanoe, had played a key role in Prachi's transformation as a canoeist.
"It's a step towards our Paris dream. This time we not only want to qualify for the mega event but also win medals for the country," said Thakur.
"We had never qualified for the finals of the World Cup before this event but this time not only three participants from the country made it to the finals but Prachi clinched bronze giving us a big boost and hope for the future," the coach signed off.