Sanjeev Kumar has yet again proved that physical debility means little before strong will. The paralympic badminton champion from Punjab recently won the gold in the men’s singles and doubles sections of the 15th National Open para badminton championship held in Chennai.
Competing in the Wheelchair category (II), Sanjeev first defeated local hope Francis 21-2, 21-4 to grab the top honour in the singles section. Later, Sanjeev teamed up with S Karki of Maharashtra to defeat the pair of Prem Kumar (Maharashtra) and Farooq Abdulla (Andhra Pradesh) 21-5, 21-7 in the doubles final.
“Although the wheelchair category was introduced in the event for the first time, I was quite confident about winning the gold. Moreover, the medals could not have come at a better time, as I am hoping to secure a berth in the Indian badminton squad for the Asian Para Games to be held in Incheon (South Korea) next month,” said the 27-year-old international level shuttler, who hails from the remote Telupura village in Abohar sub-division, and trains under coach Surinder Mahajan at Panjab University badminton centre.
In the trials for the Games held last month in Bangalore, Sanjeev stood first in both singles and doubles sections of his category.“The list of the final squad is yet to come, but I am quite confident of making the cut. All my focus is on winning the medal for the country this time,” added the player, who had also participated in the 2010 edition of the Asian Para Games held in Guangzhou (China), but could not win a medal.
Apart from participating in Asian level tournaments, such as Asian Para Games and Asian Championship (2008, 2012), Sanjeev has earned fair amount of success at other international events. It includes a doubles silver in 2009 IWAS World Games (Bangalore), singles bronze medal each in the Israel Open Badminton Championship (2009) and 2nd Para French International Badminton Championship (2012), and doubles bronze in the BWF Para Badminton World Championship (Germany, 2013).
He also participated in the Indonesia Open in June this year, and reached quarterfinals.
At the national level, Sanjeev is the reigning champion in the singles section of his category since 2011, and has won 10 gold, one silver and a bronze in different categories of national championships since 2009. In view of his achievements, Sanjeev, the only shuttler from Punjab in the wheelchair class, was awarded state award in 2011.
Crediting the coach for his success, Sanjeev said, “Whatever I have achieved today, it’s all due to Mahajan sir. Had he not been there, I would not have been this successful,” said the player, whose tours are taken care of by Shiv Lal Doda of Seth Chabil Das Charitable Trust (Abohar).
But, despite his current financial backing, Sanjeev feels that something’s amiss: “The state government has done nothing to support me. A job is all I ask for.”