The cutest picture from the Tokyo Paralympic Games was shuttleman Pramod Bhagat chasing coach Gaurav Khanni, dropping a racket and jumping into his lap to hug him tightly after winning a gold medal in the men’s SL3 singles badminton classification. He will later tell reporters: “I am in love with sir. He is like a father, an older brother and also a mother and always of great help. Everything I achieved at the World Cup and here in Tokyo, I am all thanks to him. “
Khanna first trained deaf players and actually learned the language. He was a coach at two World Deaf Games and one Asian Deaf Game. In 2014, he was appointed head national coach of a pair of players and over a period of some 6 years his students won 319 medals internationally. The call for the Tokyo Paralympic Games resounded at the right time because Khanna was already in an accident. He was a national selector and was pleased with the way things were going.
So, he started seriously and had a planned path to fame. Carefully planned training was underway when the government began its first closure. That led to a problem, but he overcame it as only he could. Khanna realized that playing in another hall would always be problematic, so he decided to buy land near the current academy and build his own academy that would be under his control, day and night. So slowly a lovely academy with 4 pitches with everything under one roof was formed. Then he wanted a sauna, steam, jacuzzi, hydrotherapy and an indoor massage center. Everything had to meet the needs of athletes with different abilities, including nine rooms. He has already mortgaged his house to take out a 1 Crore loan for a training center. The ban was lifted and everyone started training within four pitches, but soon a second wave hit and a blockade was reintroduced. Khanna was in trouble, but he never gave up. He made two outdoor pitches and they soon started working. His passion and love for pair games pushed him forward.
Khanna has a sharp nose for talent. Palak Kohli, a 19-year-old who represented India at the Paralympic Games, was seen at a shopping mall in Punjab. She was young, lively, of good build, and he was sure he would make a medal out of her. It took her six months to join. Within 6-7 months she was the national champion, and by the end of the year she had won international titles. The same goes for Manoj Sarkar, who won the World Cup and bronze in Tokyo. He used to play for a prankster without knowing about the championship. Khanna approached him on a field trip in search of talent. Identifying the right players in the last 5-6 years has resulted in Indian pairs of badminton players winning 319 international medals at BWF and other competitions. Namely, he appeared as a powerful coach in the world of badminton pairs.
So what happens if other countries turn to him with a really lucrative offer? “No way,” he says. “I am an Indian coach and I will stay that way. Offers don’t matter to me. The love and affection my country and my students give me cannot be replaced.” As it turned out, Gaurav had already been offered a lucrative contract. What did he do? “It simply came to our notice then. Money cannot be bought izzat (respect). I am not leaving my country. I love my India. “He is certainly a very down-to-earth individual, who is also very charitable. He likes to help people with disabilities and those from poor backgrounds. How did this come about?” It’s from my mother. She always helps the depressed. cross the road, help physical persons wherever he goes.It is very spiritual and religious.Something sparked in me and I went the same way.First they were deaf players and now a pair of shuttlers. I am completely committed to them, ”says Khanna.
He was also a coach for capable players, and speaking about the difference and difficulties in coaching a pair of players, he says: “It is very challenging. For a capable player, you need to think about control, fitness and speed. You don’t need a customized training schedule for each individual. I can make a plan and the players will continue. But in the case of a pair of athletes, each player comes up with a different challenge. I have to deal with players suffering from polio, amputators, one limb deformity and paraplegics. Each player is different and brings their own sets of challenges. So, the deformity of the left leg means that I have to constantly think about the work of the legs. And how to strengthen that area. So a right-hander may have a problem with his left limb, and then when a player goes for a kick into the net or in general, does the player prefer a stronger leg in front or not? And a right-hander who has a right foot problem needs to be treated and trained differently. Here it is important that he or she must negotiate the incoming shuttle. But I get pleasure from my work. It’s been a wonderful journey so far. “
So how much do states and SAIs help in this endeavor? “I am very pleased with the support I receive from them. We need to consider so many issues that the government is facing. It is not easy to run our country and considering all that I am very happy with what I get. I get support from the SAI TOPS scheme, from other private companies like the GoSports Foundation and a good show in Tokyo will generate a lot more support. I am very sure that we will feel that we will receive generous help from everyone. The private NGO here, however, adopts the players and pays all their expenses, which is useful because the burden is being lifted from my shoulders. But most importantly, we have received the unwavering support of Prime Minister Modi and that is invaluable. “
So where then goes the coach who won the Dronacharya award last year and ten lakh INR in cash, not only borrowed 1 crore of the loan, but even invested his Dronacharya award money in the academy and put in a staggering effort? “We are ready for any challenge. An Asian junior pair will soon follow, followed by other events, and then the main ones next year are the Asian Games and the CWG. Indian paras athletes are ready for anything, ”he adds.
Gaurav Khanna, just keep up the good work and bring more laurels to India. The state owes you a lot.
(Sanjay Sharma represented India in badminton and was also the coach of the national badminton team. He is now a game commentator and writer. Sanjay wrote an authorized biography of Pullela Gopi Chand, Pullela Gopi Chand: A World Below His Feat)