Winning Shot

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Parul Parmar is one of the finest badminton players in the country, a feat notwithstanding her age or disability. Shivli Tyagi speaks to the Arjuna awardee

Parul Parmar was part of the Indian Para Badminton team that recently created history by winning 11 medals at the BWF Para Badminton World Championship in the UK. However, you see no hint of pride in her demeanour. “I’m in my 40s but I am very keen to go for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 (it’s the first time Para Badminton is being included in the Paralympics) and I’m training very hard for it,” she says, her determination almost palpable. Parul was afflicted with polio in her right leg when she was three years old and within six months of being diagnosed, she fractured the affected leg. “The bone didn’t attach right and it took two major operations to get my foot to straighten out.” Doctors prescribed exercise and her father, a national level badminton player from Gujarat, decided to teach her the game. “He would take me to Ahmedabad every day from Gandhinagar (23km away) for massages to strengthen my leg. Sometimes, due to lack of sponsorships, he would borrow money just to make sure I could go and win the games, and I did, for my father.” During her college days and while she applied for a job at the postal department in Gandhinagar, where she currently works, Parul competed against non-disabled players and won.“When I applied for the job, it was in the sports quota. I had to compete against normal players to get through,” says Parul, adding that for a long while there weren’t separate categories for disabled players. One of the toughest hurdles she’s had to overcome was not on court, though; it was trying to get leave sanctioned from the postal department to attend the tournaments. “I had to take leave without pay. Most people dismiss my game because they can’t imagine a girl with a limp playing such a fast-paced game. Things changed for the better after I won the Arjuna award but sponsorships are still not easy to come by. I don’t earn enough to even buy a decent racquet.” Parul eventually applied for a one-year course to receive coaching at National Institute of Sports, becoming one of the first differently abled people to do so. “Today there are many differently abled people who avail of this coaching.” When asked about her future plans, she replies briskly, “Winning at the Olympics is the top goal. One day, I want to open my own academy and teach differently abled players to never stop believing in themselves. They can go on to win the world.”