Ramesh Tikaram: The athletics Paralympian who started India’s para badminton story
Ramesh Tikaram, the international para athlete instrumental in popularising para badminton in India, had dealt with polio since he was two. On Thursday, the Arjuna award winner died of Covid-19 in Bangalore. He was 51 and survived by wife and two children.
“Tikaram Sir was the father of para badminton in India. We knew him as the first para badminton player to win an Arjuna award, a national coach and sports administrator,” says Rakesh Pandey, world No. 1 doubles para badminton player and a multiple medallist at Para Asian Games.
“My association with Tikaram Sir started in 2005-06. He was the coach in the 2006 Para Asian Games and my last tour with him was the 2014 Para Asian Games.”
If today, many of India’s para badminton players are in the world top-10 in different categories, they owe it to Tikaram, a Paralympian in shot put and discus.
It was in 2001 by when he was an established para athlete that Tikaram competed in the world para badminton championship in 2001 (Spain) and became the first Indian to win a round. As an administrator, he formed Badminton Sports Association of India for Challenged, the sport’s governing body before it became part of Badminton Association of India.
Tikaram’s journey in sport started in school when he competed with the able-bodied in athletes, volleyball and cricket. In 1988, he switched to sport for the differently-abled. Four years later, he competed in athletics in the Barcelona Paralympics Games. In 1994, he was part of the Indian powerlifting team for the World Cup in France.
In 2002, Tikaram won gold in shot put, discus and javelin in the Belgium Paralympics Championships. Apart from world championship in 2001, he competed in couple of international events in para badminton. He remained active in the international arena till 2004. In 2002, Tikaram won the Arjuna award.
For the past few years though Tikaram was not associated with para badminton. “He faded away from the scene,” says Pandey. Tikaram even faced corruption charges from a couple of international players.
“We don’t know the truth behind the charges. But the exponential growth of para badminton in India is because of Tikaram. I always found him smiling and passionate about the sport. His life revolved around para-badminton even when he was no more associated with the administration of the sport,” says athletics’ Paralympian Girraj Singh, who has travelled with Tikaram in the 2014 Para Asian Games as an official.
Gesture by fellow para athletes
The hospital had refused to hand over the body to Tikaram’s family because it couldn’t pay more than half of the total bill of Rs 10. “As para athletes came to know about Arjuna awardee Tikaram’s family plight, players pitched in and arranged the remaining amount in couple of hours,” says Amit Saroha, an Arjuna award winning para athlete.