NEW DELHI — It was on Dec. 2 in 2011 that Manasi Joshi met with an accident and had her left leg amputated. After spending days in hospital and post recovery, Manasi, who had just started her career as an engineer, got a prosthetic leg. Any other person would have lost all her confidence, but that was not the case with Manasi. In fact, the accident went a long way in changing her outlook towards life.
"The turning point of my life was when I met with an accident back in 2011, which led to the amputation of my leg. After the accident, I had to relearn everything — from walking to conducting daily chores and activities on my own," she told IANS in an exclusive interview.
Manasi said while she studied and pursued a career in software engineering, she was always inclined towards sports and had been coaching for badminton as a hobby since the age of 10.
"Playing any sport teaches you an important life lesson; that you must always accept defeat and always tread onwards. This learning was always deep-seated in my conscience and helped me through the initial phase.
"As a part of my rehabilitation that helped me walk again with a prosthetic limb, I started playing badminton. Given the love I had for the sport, I did not let my injury become an obstacle, and this determination played a huge role in my achievements in the national and international level.
"Post my accident, in 2011, I participated in an inter-company badminton championship and won a gold medal. This achievement instilled great confidence in me and was driven to test my limits, which is when a new world of opportunities opened up," she added while talking about her struggle and how badminton helped her make weakness into her strength.
Eight years later, Manasi created history. In August 2019 in Basel, Switzerland, she defeated defending champion and fellow Indian Parul Parma to win gold at the World Para-badminton Championships.
However, for Manasi the bronze medal she won at the 2018 Asian Para Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia is the one she loves the most.
"World Championship gold is by far the most favourite achievement for me. But, I love my Asian Games Bronze medal for its inclusive design. It has text in Braille and makes a jingling sound when shaken," she said.
"The amount of particles in each medal differs between gold, silver and bronze, so that each medal makes a different sound. This allows visually impaired athletes to immediately identify what they are holding.
"As a society, it is important for us to become more inclusive and include these unique design modifications while giving out medals and trophies."
Manasi also said that she owes a lot to Pullela Gopichand, under whom she has been training since 2018 at his academy in Hyderabad.
"Gopi sir is a remarkable coach who completely transformed my career. He took immense interest and efforts to actualize my potential. He scrutinized videos of several matches and even practised while limping on one leg, just in order to understand what it was like for me and how I can strengthen my play physically," said Manasi.
Manasi is currently focused on qualifying for the mixed doubles category of Tokyo Paralympics (since the singles event is not a Paralympics event) slated to begin in July, with partner Rakesh Pandey.
"After winning gold medal at the Para Badminton World Championships in Basel, I concentrated completely on mixed doubles preparation with more quickness and reflex development at the net," she said.
"Doubles is a game of agility, reflexes and quickness and thus, I made sure my agility and hand skills became that for doubles and I worked more on my service skills too," she added.
Manasi also revealed her long, cherished dream: "As a para athlete, I wish to become the best in my sport and win a Paralympic medal for India. In the process, I also strive to change how para sports and disability is perceived in India."
Talking about her association with Welspun, she said: "The support that they have been providing me has actually helped me dream big and realise it. Welspun has funded the tournaments, which I have participated in during the past few years, and they have been very accommodating of my needs."