As India basked in PV Sindhu’s Badminton World Championship glory on Sunday, another Indian shuttler was also the toast of the nation in Basel. 30-year-old Manasi Joshi was the talk of the town after she clinched her first gold at the BWF Para Badmintonship World Championships.
Joshi withstood a tough challenge and beat experienced compatriot and defending champion Parul Parmar 21-12, 21-7 to ensure a top of the podium finish in the women’s singles SL3 category.
The victory wasn’t expected given she had faced Parmar three times this year and ended up on the losing side on all three occasions. But in Basel, she displayed nerves of steel to eke out a convincing victory even though she trailed 2-7 in the opening game.
“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to win but I was prepared [for the final]. I just had this one thing in mind that I have to be better than before. I didn’t have a particular strategy against her (Parmar) but it was in my mind that I needed to play better than what I did before. I’d worked extremely hard and I was sure my efforts were going to pay off,” Joshi, who lost her left leg in a road accident in 2011, told Scroll.in.
“I was nervous after I dropped the first few points but as soon as I got hold of the game, I ensured that I stayed on top and not lose my rhythm. I had lost the mixed doubles, so I learnt from my mistakes and made sure that I didn’t repeat those here,” she explained.
In the run up to the showpiece event, Joshi went through gruelling training sessions at the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad. The daily routine involved three sessions a day and she even shed a few kilos to build on her fitness and improve her strokeplay.
It was there at the academy where she came across a mental conditioning coach and decided to take up a few sessions. It brought about a different approach to her game where she previously struggled.
“I noticed a lot of changes. After these sessions I kept reminding myself – I am powerful, I can do it. Many thoughts go through a player’s mind during a match. When you get nervous, you start talking to yourself. These are the times when you should not do this, so I understood the importance of keeping your composure.
“Nowadays, everything is recorded so it becomes easier for opponents to study your game. I remembered all these tips I learnt and played my natural game,” she added.
Learning from the best
Parmar, a two-time gold medallist at the Worlds and Asian Para Games has been India’s torchbearer in the SL3 category for many years now. But the manner of Joshi’s victory against 46-year-old Parmar suggested a metaphorical passing of the baton in Basel.
Since taking up badminton professionally in 2014, Joshi has racked up a total of six medals – her first coming in the mixed doubles category at 2015 World Championships in England. Joshi, however, suggests she’s far off from scripting the legacy Parmar has left behind.
“She congratulated me [after the finals] and seemed happy that there was someone to defeat her. She is an undisputed champion for so many years and even now, she is number one. It will take me a lot more tournaments to even reach her level, so there’s no displacing her from that spot.
“I have picked up so many things from her. She’s a complete team player. Everyone in our team calls her didi, so we look up to her. Even in the game, I have learnt so much from her – how to use the wrists better, how to make good movements and gain maximum points. How much important service is. Many players will wait for the next shot but from her, I learnt the service is the most important aspect. The point is yours if your service is spot on,” she stressed.
With the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics just a year away, the women’s singles SL3 category is not part of the Games. That means Joshi will have to switch her attention back to mixed doubles to have any chance of taking the flight to Japan’s capital next year.
But more than that, her primary aim is to keep getting better than what she was yesterday.
“The other day, I was telling my trainer, ‘I don’t how I am going to perform at the World Championships but I am enjoying this journey.’ So he told me that if I was already enjoying my journey, so I am a winner. Everyone believed in me but I did not know that I was going to win a medal. My belief was to just keep getting better. I want to do that tomorrow and for the rest of the days to come,” she concluded.