Pramod Bhagat, possibly the only player to confidently predict a gold medal for himself before the start of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, proved his words were no empty boast.
Bhagat was in trouble at 4-11 in the second game of his men’s singles SL3 final against Great Britain’s Daniel Bethell, but the Indian produced a spell of superb control and precision, giving his opponent nothing to work with, as he stopped Bethell 21-14 21-17 in 45 minutes.
There was more joy for India as Manoj Sarkar won the bronze medal playoff against local hope Daisuke Fujihara, 22-20 21-13.
“This was a challenge for me, because I’d lost to Bethell at this venue in similar conditions. It’s not about my ego – but I believe I’m the best. I was sure I would win,” said Bhagat. “Of course there was some doubt in my mind, but that’s why I had to focus on every point, that if I make a single mistake, Bethell would take advantage. It was a perfect match today. He’s a superb player, so I had to avoid giving him a chance.”
“There was some drift but I managed it. There was only one aim – to win gold. I was able to focus on each point and that’s how I could overtake him. This is Para badminton’s debut at the Paralympics, and this is an honour for Indian Para badminton, and I’m very proud to get the gold.”
Bethell rued his missed opportunity but gave credit to his opponent.
“It’s disappointing. I came here to win the gold medal. That was my goal and I fell short today but looking at it, Bhagat played very well. His attack was so good, he kept that up from the beginning. He deserved it and I’m so proud of just getting to the final and winning a Paralympic medal and being the first British player to do it.”
Bronze medallist Sarkar recalled that his wife’s advice to express his anger in his game worked well for him.
“I’m quite short-tempered, and my wife told me I should be expressing my anger in my game rather than at her! So I want to dedicate this medal for my country and the match to my wife. This is a dream come true and a dream moment.”
Gold for Qu Zi Mo, Liu Yu Tong
China’s Qu Zi Mo had a shorter-than-expected route to the gold medal in men’s singles WH1 as Korean opponent Lee Sam Seop retired with Qu leading 21-6 11-6.
Lee had earlier in the day been involved in a titanic semifinal against teammate Lee Dong Seop, having won the match after saving two match points.
“In the morning session, I didn’t feel like I was in good condition. I had a fever, and took a pill, and everything felt worse,” said Lee Sam Seop.
“I didn’t know if an opportunity like this will come to me again in my life. But I felt that if I had to choose between an opportunity to get a gold medal and the opportunity to feel healthy, I will choose good health.
“I feel happy to have a silver medal. Of course, my goal was to get gold. I feel happy with silver too.”
China added another gold through women’s singles WH2 world champion Liu Yu Tong, who beat teammate Xu Ting Ting 21-15 21-15.
Japan’s Yuma Yamazaki won the bronze over Turkey’s Emine Seckin.
Oktila/Sadiyah Claim Doubles
Indonesia, still fresh from Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu’s gold medal success in women’s doubles at the Olympics, added the Paralympic gold through Leani Ratri Oktila/Khalimatus Sadiyah.
The Indonesians were too strong for China’s Cheng He Fang/Ma Hui Hui, 21-18 21-12.
“We didn’t expect to win in straight games, we went out there to just do the best we could do,” said Oktila. “I wanted to show Indonesia my best and give my best to the Indonesian people.”