Pramod Bhagat will return to action at the Uganda International Para-Badminton Championship, beginning on November 15, 71 days after winning gold in the SL3 category at the Tokyo Paralympics.
'It's time to start for 2024 and 2028,' said Bhagat, the world No. 1 in his category. By the time the 2028 Paralympics comes around in Los Angeles, Bhagat will be 40 but he swatted away talk of being too old by saying, 'age is just a number.'
Bhagat also said he would be aiming for a repeat of the success in Tokyo at the Asian Para Games in 2022. 'I would love to see Indians winning all the titles there,' he said.
Badminton debuted at the Tokyo Paralympics and along with Bhagat, three Indians, Krishna Nagar (gold), Suhas LY (silver) and Manoj Sarkar (bronze), made the podium.
Bhagat, who learnt the basics from childhood coach Shiba Prasad Das in Odisha after his family migrated from Bihar, has 45 international medals and this includes four gold medals at the world championship and another at the Asian Para-Games.
'Besides my own training in Odisha, I keep teaching young shuttlers. I learn many things from young trainees,' said Bhagat who is among 11 athletes recommended for this year's Khel Ratna, the country's highest sporting award.
When the conversation moved to his gold in Tokyo, Bhagat said: 'It was like a dream come true when I bagged the last point. I can still feel the moment when I jumped into the arms of coach Gaurav Khanna after winning the last point. That moment is still the best of my life so far.'
On being nominated for Khel Ratna, he said that it has been another milestone of his career. 'When I met my childhood hero Sachin Tendulkar after winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics, I felt complete. And now this award makes me feel like my dream run is continuing.'
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