Women’s pair of Palak Kohli and Parul Parmar on Friday became the first Indian para shuttlers to qualify for Tokyo Paralympics.

The 18-year-old Palak and the 48-year-old Parul, who couldn’t compete at the Spanish para-Badminton International (May 11-16), due to travel restriction in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, received an official intimation from the world body BWF on Friday.

Palak and Parul have achieved the qualification for the SL3-SU5 women’s doubles event in para-badminton, which will be making its debut in this year’s Paralympics.

The current classification for para badminton is organised as follows:

  • WH1 is for players who require a wheelchair to play badminton and usually have an impairment in both their legs and trunk. Players are required to play in a wheelchair in this class
  • WH2 is for players who could have an impairment in one or both legs and minimal or no impairment of the trunk.
  • SL3 players must play standing. The player could have impairment in one or both legs and poor walking/running balance.
  • SL4 is a second standing class where the player has a lesser impairment compared to Sport Class SL3. The player could have an impairment in one or both legs and a minimal impairment in walking/running balance.
  • SU5 is for players with an impairment of the upper limb. The impairment could be on the playing or non-playing hand.
  • SH6 is for players who have a short stature.

“We got the official communication today and I am ecstatic to hear the news,” said Palak.

The duo is currently ranked sixth in the world in their category.

“In the last few months, we have been pushing ourselves and training hard. Even in the pandemic, we continued to train under the guidance of Gaurav Khanna sir and never deterred from our focus,” she said.

The top six pairs in the BWF ranking have qualified. The ranking was released after the completion of the Spanish Open.

“I am really grateful that we have been able to clear the first obstacle of getting a Paralympics medal. We have to now set our targets at the podium and devote all our energy in the upcoming days to achieve the goals,” she added.

The duo was ranked fifth before the Spanish event and even though they had made the qualification criteria, they were waiting for the official communication, which was due after the Spanish event.

Palak and Parul are currently training at the Gaurav Khanna Excellia Badminton Academy, the first Indian professional para-badminton academy, in Lucknow.

“I am absolutely thrilled that Palak and Parul are the first ones from the Indian Para-badminton contingent to receive their tickets to Tokyo Paralympics,” Khanna said.

“The pandemic has been difficult on all of us, but this news has brought some positivity. We now have to prepare keeping in mind the level of difficulties the Paralympics will have for us and the work gets somewhat easier for us by having a dedicated training facility.

“We are extremely grateful to the Sports Authority of India, BAI, Welspun India who has been constantly supporting us.”

Palak will likely represent India in the Paralympics in two events.

After making it to the SL3-SU5 Women’s doubles event, Palak now awaits a call in the SU5 Singles category, where she’s currently ranked number 11 in the world.