As the sports world takes a break due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, resting is not a choice for 17-year-old Paralympics-bound shuttler Palak Kohli. She is a rare combination of grit and determination, who is still keeping alive her Tokyo dreams. Palak decided to rent a flat on the outskirts of Lucknow just in time before the nationwide lockdown came in place. Palak has a deformed left hand by birth.

With the help of her coach Gaurav Khanna, Palak has managed to create a temporary court at a nearby park where she is currently staying. The Tokyo Paralympics-bound shuttler is determined to win a medal for the country. Recently, she finished working on a makeshift court, which now has lighting facility for training at night.

Key Takeaways:

  • Tokyo Paralympics-bound shuttler Palak Kohli continues to train by putting up a makeshift court at her residential society in Lucknow.
  • The 17-year-old from Jalandhar is supervised by national coach Gaurav Khanna, who is there for every session. Palak is following all rules and not missing any training due to the lockdown.
  • Palak’s initial training started at coach Khanna’s academy in the same city. She was training with nine other players but before the lockdown eight left for their homes.

“I am training two shifts everyday. Because of daytime heat, I start at 6am with physical training and then play at the court till 8:30am and in the evening it’s also 6-8:30pm training,” Palak told PTI.

“I am lucky “

Palak’s initial training started at coach Khanna’s academy in the same city. She was training with nine other players but before the lockdown eight left for their homes. Talking about her coach and the ongoing practice sessions, she said, “Khanna sir stays nearby and he is there every session. So, I am not missing any training due to lockdown.”

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“With most of athletes confined to their homes or rooms, I think I am lucky to be able to train. When lockdown is lifted I won’t be starting from scratch and I feel I will have the advantage going into Paralympics,” said Palak, a woman with a mission.

She is also supported by the Olympic Gold Quest Programme. “The rent for the room and other day-to-day expenditure is being taken care of by my sponsors, so I am not having any financial issues. My only aim is to win a Paralympic medal and I am confident of doing that and making the country proud,” she explains.

Making the qualification cut for Tokyo

Palak, who is currently ranked fifth in the world, is certain to make the cut for Tokyo Paralympics in women’s doubles. International Paralympic Committee (IPC) will publish the names of the top six rank holders and they will get a direct qualification.

“Out of the 13 qualification tournaments, 12 were completed and the last one was cancelled due to COVID-19. I am now fifth and the top six get automatic qualification. So, I am a certainty for Tokyo Paralympics,” said the teenager.

“My only aim is to win a Paralympic medal and I am confident of doing that and making the country proud.”

Palak is currently ranked 10th in women’s singles in SU5 category. She won the women’s doubles title with Parul Parmar at the Uganda Para International Tournament last year. I am not complaining as I am getting full training here. Had I gone back to Jalandhar, I would have been confined at home because of the lockdown. Here I am able to do full training. We are also following social distancing norms, we have kept sanitisers with us during training and we keep distance while doing warm ups. We talk from a distance. Moreover, it’s a gated society, nobody comes in and goes out without permission,” said the 12th standard student at DAV School.

Palak made her national debut last year and she has already won four BWF international tournament medals during the Tokyo Paralympics qualification competitions.

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Feature Image Credit: Hindustan Times

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