Shooter Manish Narwal smashed a Games record while shuttler Pramod Bhagat yet again asserted his supremacy with his gold-winning performance as India’s tally swelled to 17 after a four-medal show on a memorable penultimate day at the Tokyo Paralympics, here on Saturday.
The 19-year-old Narwal shot a total of 218.2, a Paralympic record, for gold in P4 Mixed 50m Pistol SH1 event while Bhagat humbled Great Britain’s Daniel Bethell in the men’s singles SL3 class final for a historic yellow metal.
India now have four gold, seven silver and six bronze medals to be placed 26th with one day left in the Games.
India had won just four medals in the last edition in Rio while the total count from the 1972 edition when the country competed for the first time till these Tokyo Games was 12.
More medals are in store for India on the final day on with shuttlers Suhas Yathiraj and Krishna Nagar sailing into the men’s singles finals of SL4 class and SH6 class respectively.
Tarun Dhillon too stayed in contention for a bronze after losing his semifinals while the duo of Bhagat and Palak Kohli will also feature in the third-place play-off in the mixed SL3-SL5 class.
Narwal smashed the Paralympic record to clinch India’s third gold of the current edition of the Games while compatriot Singhraj Adana bagged the silver to make it a sensational one-two finish for the country.
Narwal, who holds the world record in the category, claimed the yellow metal in P4 Mixed 50m Pistol SH1 event in his debut Games. “I’m very happy,” said Narwal who hails from Ballabhgarh in Haryana.
Narwal had a keen interest in sports from childhood and grew up wanting to become a football player. Unfortunately, he could not fulfil his footballing dreams due to a congenital ailment in his right hand. His wrestler father Dilbagh tried doing anything to make sure that his son’s deformity did not hold him back.
In 2016, on the suggestion of a family friend, Dilbagh took Narwal to a nearby shooting range at Ballabhgarh run by coach Rakesh Thakur. That changed Narwal’s life and he instantly developed a keen interest in the sport and started doing practice regularly.
At that time he did not know about Paralympic Games but his talent was spotted by coach Jai Prakash Nautiyal. Narwal won gold medal in P1 and silver in P4 in 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta.
The 39-year-old Adana, who competes with polio-impaired lower limbs, created a piece of history as he joins the elite list of Indians who have won multiple medals in the same edition of the Games. He had won the bronze in the P1 men’s 10m air pistol SH1 event on Tuesday.
Shooter Avani Lekhara, who won a gold and bronze in the ongoing Games and Joginder Singh Sodhi, who fetched one silver and two bronze medals in the 1984 Paralympics, are the other two Indians who have achieved the feat.
With badminton making its debut at the Paralympics this year, world champion and pre-tournament favourite Bhagat became the first Indian to win a gold medal in the sport.
Bhagat claimed the historic gold in the men’s singles SL3 class by beating Great Britain’s Daniel Bethell in the summit clash while Manoj Sarkar bagged a bronze after defeating Japan’s Daisuke Fujihara in the third place play-off.
In SL3 classification, athletes with lower limb impairment compete. The top seeded Bhagat, also Asian champion, showed great mental fortitude as he prevailed 21-14 21-17 over second-seeded Bethell in a thrilling final that lasted 45 minutes.
“This is very special to me, it’s my dream come true. Bethell really pushed me but I just kept my calm and played to my strengths,” said Bhagat after winning India’s fourth gold medal in the Games.
“I would like to dedicate this to my parents and to everyone who has supported me throughout. I’m glad I could make India proud,” added Bhagat, who had contracted polio when he was four years old.
The 33-year-old from Odisha also remains in contention for a bronze medal in mixed doubles SL3-SU5 class. He and his partner Palak Kohli will meet Japanese pair of Daisuke Fujihara and Akiko Sugino in the bronze medal play off on Sunday.
Bhagat picked up the sports after watching his neighbours play. Initially, he competed against able-bodied players before getting into competitive para badminton in 2006.
He eventually emerged as one of the best para shuttlers in the country with 45 international medals in his kitty, including four world championship gold medals and a gold and a bronze in 2018 Asian Para Games.
The 31-year-old Sarkar, whose right leg was affected after he contracted polio at age one, displayed great resilience during his 22-20 21-13 win over Fujihara.
Sarkar had taken up badminton at age five. He played inter-school competition against able-bodied players till the 11th grade before starting to compete in para badminton in 2011.
In SL4 class, Suhas outwitted Indonesia’s Fredy Setiawan 21-9 21-15 in the first semifinal. The 38-year-old, who has an impairment in one of his ankles, will face top seed Lucas Mazur of France in the final on Sunday.
A computer engineer, Suhas went on to become an IAS officer and has been posted as a district magistrate of Noida since 2020, a role that saw him at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
Krishna, seeded second, outplayed Great Britain’s Krysten Coombs 21-10 21-11 in the SH6 class semifinals. He will cross swords with Hong Kong’s Chu Man Kai in the final on Sunday.
In SL4 class semifinal, Tarun went down narrowly 16-21 21-16 18-21 to Mazur. He will face Setiawan in the bronze medal play off. In the men’s F41 javelin throw, India’s Navdeep finished fourth with a best throw of 40.80m.