Focused on Change – Road To Tokyo: Manasi Joshi

Manasi Girichandra Joshi, the women’s singles Standing Lower (SL3) world champion is in Bangkok for the Thailand Para-Badminton International 2019, but she is not competing in the SL3 category.

Joshi is entered in the SL3-SU5 mixed and women’s doubles category but is opting to focus more on the mixed doubles with partner Rakesh Pandey, looking to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

“My target for the SL3 singles was the World Championships and I achieved that,” said Joshi. According to Joshi, she still has time to get back into the swing of the SL3 singles as the points she has gained will remain for two years, even after the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Joshi (centre) receiving her World Championships gold medal.

“The SL3 singles is not a Paralympic event so I’m hoping that by shifting my focus to the mixed doubles, I can set myself another target,” she said.

Joshi and Pandey won the mixed doubles silver at the 2015 World Championships but the sport has changed a lot since then and Joshi understands what it will take to reach her 2020 target.

“I’ve been training to change the way I play on the court. Doubles is on a full-court and a lot faster than singles. I find I have to be all over the court.”

Training at the Gopichand Academy, under the same coaches that played a big part in her World Championships title win, Joshi puts herself through vigorous fitness and skill exercises.

“They are helping me figure out my movements and my strokes. I’m out of my comfort zone as the mixed doubles requires a lot of quick strokes and good reflexes. I definitely have to be a lot more agile. In the singles, there was time to take slow shots and less space to cover on the court,” she explained.

Part of the training involves watching match videos of some of the best mixed doubles Para badminton athletes in the world. At the top of her list are France’s Lucas Mazur and Faustine Noel and Turkey’s Iiker Tuzcu, as well as most of the Indonesian mixed doubles pairs.

“Iiker’s reflexes at the net are so quick while the Indonesians have some of the most creative shots. The French are, of course, one of the best pairs around. There’s so much for me to pick up,” said Joshi.

Rakesh Pandey (left) and Manasi Joshi in action at the Thailand Para-Badminton International 2019.

With only a few more tournaments left for her to gain qualifying points for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, Joshi realises that time is not on her side but she’s not one who lets a small thing like that stand in her way.

Joshi lost her left leg in a traffic accident. “I was riding my motorbike and it was just one of those things, a busy intersection and lots of traffic and my bike was hit by a truck. It happened and it’s something I live with.”

After extensive rehabilitation and a change of job, she decided to focus on sport.

“I played sport before my accident but nothing too serious. After the accident, the job I had then did not offer much support. So I quit and got a new job, which now allows me the flexibility of time and even a salary while training and competing,” she said.

As a software engineer, Joshi believes she can always find a job at some point in her life, even when she is older, whereas badminton is something she needs to attend to now at the age of 30.

“At the end of the day, I just need to focus on what I want. It worked when I focused on the World Championships and I hope it will work for me again, this time for the mixed doubles in Tokyo,” she said.

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