LAST YEAR, paralympic player Sanjeev Kumar of Punjab did not play in any international tournament due to lack of funds and missed the BWF events. This year has seen 30-year-old Kumar featuring in two international events and winning one title in the BWF Uganda Para Badminton International tournament in April. The win also meant that Kumar has now climbed to seventh in the latest world rankings released by BWF earlier this month.
Kumar, who trains at Panjab University under coach Surinder Mahajan, has 65 points, including 50 points for the Uganda tournament but with Jungjun Kim of South Korea at the top with 350 points, there is plenty to do for Kumar.
“It is good to be among the top 10 parashuttlers in the world, but I need to play more tournaments. I did not play in any international tournament last year and went to Spain and Uganda on my own to play. The gold medal in Uganda in WH 2 category helped my confidence and the 50 points helped me in the world rankings. There are two more BWF tournaments to be held in Brazil and USA later this year and I am looking for a sponsor for the trips as I have got no support from the Punjab government. I have won a bronze medal in World Championships in 2013 but players like me find tough to take part in BWF events,” shared Kumar, who had defeated compatriot Suresh Karki in Uganda in April.
Kumar, who suffered from polio in his right leg, started playing badminton in 2007 and won a silver medal at the World Paralympic Games in 2009 before winning bronze at the BWF Para Badminton World Championships in Germany in 2013. Earlier this year, Kumar won the gold in the WH 2 category at the nationals in Bengaluru and has so far won 18 gold medals in nationals apart from the three silver medals and two bronze medals in singles and doubles categories.
Hailing from Abohar where he stays with his family, Kumar is now aiming for the upcoming nationals to be held in August, which would also act as selection trials for the world championships to be held later this year. “Last year, the nationals got delayed and we could take part in March this year. As a player, I need to play as many tournaments as I can and the upcoming nationals are very important for me. If the sports ministry and the federation approve of our trip to the world championships, it would be a golden opportunity for me. I still have not got a regular job and play with a normal wheelchair. I will also be aiming to play doubles and form a winning pair for the world championships,” said Kumar.
Badminton coach Surinder Mahajan has been training Kumar since 2010 and believes that the upcoming nationals and world championships would be the key for Kumar. “The world rankings will help his morale. His strength has been his willpower and focus on the game. He is a good smasher and he showed that with his performance in Uganda, where he played with a normal wheelchair. Playing in more tournaments will help him and he can bring more medals for India,” added Mahajan.