Indian Para shuttlers are in for a rich haul in the season-opening 3rd Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Dubai Para-Badminton International 2021, ensuring themselves of 17 medals at the Shabab Al Ahli Club on Saturday.
Leading shuttlers Pramod Bhagat, Manoj Sarkar (MS SL3 category), Sukant Kadam and Nitesh Kumar (MS SL4), Krishna Nagar (MS SH6), Manasi Joshi and Parul Parmar (WS SL3) all made it to the last-four stage in their respective categories, and barring Bhagat, all of them have ensured two medals each in their respective categories.
The spotlight was firmly on Bhagat, young Palak Kohli (WS SU5) and Prem Kumar Ale (MS WH1) who have ensured themselves of three medals each after having made it to the singles, doubles and mixed doubles semi-finals in their respective categories.
Bhagat, who is the defending world champion, defeated former Indonesian great Ukun Rukaendi 21-16, 21-13 in the men’s singles SL 3 match in just 44 minutes and will take on Malaysian Muhammad Huzairi Abdul Malek in the semi-finals.
In men’s doubles, the top-seeded pair of Bhagat and Manoj Sarkar (Sl3-SL4 category) will take on Mohammad Arwaz Ansari and Deep Ranjan Bisoyee in the semi-finals.
In mixed doubles SL3-SU5 category, the Bhagat-Palak Kohli combination overcome a stiff challenge from compatriots Chirag Baretha and Mandeep Kaur 21-10, 21-17 and will take on the French pair of Lucas Mazur and Faustine Noel to book a place in the final.
A beaming Bhagat said: “I am eyeing three gold medals here, though it looks a little tough in the mixed doubles event with strong teams waiting on the road to final. However, I will give my best efforts to start the season on a strong note," said Bhagat.
Sukant Kadam just needed 22 minutes to crush Malaysian Muhammad Norhilmie Mohd Zainudin 21-17, 21-8 to enter the men’s singles SL4 semi-final stage. The 27-year-old from Maharashtra along with Nitesh also progressed to the men’s doubles SL3-SL4 event.
“I am looking to play the finals in both the events but for now I am focusing on the next match only. I was expecting Freddy (Setiawan) in the semi-finals but Marcel Adam played really well. Looking forward to play against him in the semis," said Kadam.
A total of 127 players from 29 countries, including hosts United Arab Emirates, are competing in the BWF Para Badminton tournament after more than a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The last international meet was held in Peru in February 2020.