Para World Champs: Faith, Paris Kept Kohli Going

Just two years ago Palak Kohli was left fearing for her career after she was diagnosed with a bone tumour in her left ankle.

Fast forward to 2024, the 21-year-old is back at her first Para Badminton World Championship since 2019, having made a full recovery following a surgery that took 12 months to heal.

“It was shocking for my family and I,” remembered an emotional Kohli after beating Ana Carolina Coutinho Reis 21-5 21-17 on Tuesday in Group C of the SL4 women’s singles competition.

“The doctors told me I couldn’t play Para badminton again and my family and friends were scared for me. They wanted to me to stop playing. But initially I thought about not having surgery at all (because) badminton is my life.”

After some convincing, the 20-year-old began treatment and kept herself motivated.

“My father took me to see so many doctors to get different opinions and prognosis,” continued Kohli. “Rehabilitation was hard. I was in a wheelchair, I couldn’t get out of bed. I was always looking up to God, at my targets and kept believing in myself. Keeping mentally strong was key throughout my recovery; managing mood swings and dealing with illness and other things. I kept the Paris 2024 logo on my wall. I looked at it every day. That kept me going.”

Also helping her get through an emotionally and physically taxing period was support from her peers.

“I received so many messages from players on the tour and some sent me painted shuttlecocks in boxes of my favourite colours, lavender and blue. That was very touching,” said the Indian. “We all go through challenging time. The biggest lesson I learnt is to be strong, be positive and always believe in yourself.”

After almost a year out recovering, Kohli gladly returned to the Para badminton circuit in April at Brazil Para Badminton International 2023. However, her left leg had shrunk post-surgery, needing her to wear different shoe sizes. This resulted in Kohli being reclassified from SU5 to her new category.

“The hardest part was having to adjust my movement on court. Most of the other ladies in my category were born with their disability or it came later. I’ve had much less time to get used to it but I’m doing my best,” she remarked.

“Coming back was a wonderful moment. Everyone was so happy to see me back playing and I was also delighted to see my friends.

“Now the target is the Paralympic Games. As soon as the International Paralympic Committee revealed the gold medal, I saved it as my phone wallpaper. I want to keep focused for Paris because that’s the dream. A podium finish would be ideal. After losing the bronze medal match at Tokyo 2020, a medal is what I want most.”

Kohli resumes her Group C campaign tomorrow against third seed Khalimatus Sadiyah, whom she beat the last time they met at Bahrain Para Badminton International 2023 in May.

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