With para-badminton all set to make its debut at the Paralympics in Tokyo next year, India's Manasi Joshi is super stoked and is ensuring to keep her spirits high working towards ticking off one of her bucket lists -- 'running'.
In a recent Instagram 24-hour live relay with International Paralympic Committee (IPC) as part of #WaitForTheGreats campaign to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, Joshi spoke her heart out about her journey, aspirations and road map to the Games next year.
Manasi Joshi on para-athletes
"When in 2014 we came to know that badminton is making its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, we all were very, very thrilled and enthusiastic. I think it's a great chance for the sport, and badminton is a very inclusive sport," said Joshi, who has an uphill task to book her ticket to the Games but is confident of making the cut.
She was in Mumbai recently, solely to get her prosthetics 'running' ready.
"I always have a bucket list that I ensure to fulfil and add new ones. This time, it's to get me into running. I believe that will help me train better to move around the court. So, my prosthetics needed some fixing," said Joshi, as she eagerly waits to return to the court that is off-limits since the COVID-19 induced lockdown in March.
"I have started to feel rusty, and I think I need some time to regain my form and get back to the top. Since lockdown, I trained at home by doing some wall practice. I have also been working on my fitness," added Joshi.
Joshi, who lost her left leg in an accident in 2011, grabbed headlines by winning the World Championships in Basel, Switzerland, last year. But her pet event - SL3 singles is not included in the Paralympics. The only way she can qualify now is through the tough women's doubles and mixed doubles categories.
"Yes, unfortunately, my singles event (SL3) in which I won a gold last year is not included. Definitely I am sad, but I have a chance. I am lagging behind a little in my ranks, but I am hoping to get a chance to qualify and represent India," said the 31-year-old software engineer.
Joshi, since taking up badminton professionally, spends most of her time training in Hyderabad under the watchful eyes of renowned badminton coach Pullela Gopichand, who has groomed her to world No. 2.
She will be teaming up with Rakesh Pandey in her qualifying bid in the mixed double.
"I train with Rakesh bhaiya (brother). We trained together for some time last year. I play SL3, he plays SU5. You know, 'bhaiya' is very experienced, he understands the game very well, and he's like a very good partner for me," said Joshi, who felt that her life completely changed from the time she won the World title.
Joshi is also positive about the change of baton at the Paralympic Committee of India where Rio 2016 bronze medallist Deepa Malik has taken over the reins as President.
"Every athlete would like to see an athlete representing them and she (Malik), being the President, I see so much of change. A Para-athlete understands a Para-athlete most. I see so much change at the administrative level and at country level where all athletes get supported from the funds from the government."
Joshi is also encouraged at the way people in the country are slowly embracing para-athletes and the movement. She urged her fans and all sports lovers to follow para-sports closely and support the athletes all the way to the Tokyo Games.
"I want all para-athletes to be treated as sportspersons...period. We are putting in 100 per cent and doing the best. I wish every para-athlete gets an opportunity to change that attitudinal barrier that they are seeing."