New Delhi, November 29

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ara-badminton star Pramod Bhagat lauded the efforts of the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to host the first-ever Khelo India Para Games, saying that he believes that this initiative will boost India's medal tally in major multi-discipline events such as the Olympics and Asian Games.

Bhagat currently is ranked world no.2 in para-badminton men's singles SL3 and won a gold medal at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. At the recent Hangzhou Asian Para Games, Bhagat clinched a gold in men's singles, and a bronze each in men's doubles and mixed doubles.

"After the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021, Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with us (para-athletes) just like he met with the able-bodied athletes. When he spoke with us, he had expressed that all sports are equal and I feel like we a reaping results because of this thought of the Prime Minister to provide equal opportunity to us," Bhagat said.

"After that meeting with the PM, we all hoped that a Khelo India Games will be held for para-athletes too and I am very happy and excited that the first-ever Khelo India Para Games is set to begin in New Delhi this December. I certainly feel that Khelo India Para Games will further boost the para-sports ecosystem in the country, help identify a larger talent pool and it will help increase the medal tally in upcoming Paralympics and Asian Para Games," he added.

Bhagat further stated that the Khelo India initiative has aided in developing a strong state-wise sports ecosystem with state governments promoting all disciplines in order to perform well in these annual Khelo India Games. Now with the inaugural edition of the Khelo India Para Games, one can witness similar efforts by state governments to promote para sports. He said, "I believe this initiative will give a new future for para-athletes. Earlier, para sports was mostly a national-level initiative but now under the Khelo India flagship, all states will also establish a strong system to promote para sports."

Since 2018, a total of 11 Khelo India Games have been successfully held. This includes five Khelo India Youth Games, three Khelo India University Games and three Khelo India Winter Games.

The first-ever Khelo India Para Games is scheduled to be held from December 10 to December 17, 2023.

"I am very sure this platform will be well-utilised by para-athletes. The Khelo India Para Games will definitely help in identifying many more talented para-athletes and support them with the TOPS scheme. In the recent Asian Para Games, we finished 5th in the overall medal tally with 111 medals and I can vouch that the initiatives taken by the government will help us reach the top 3 in the next Asian Para Games," Bhagat asserted.

Over 1400 participants from across 32 states and union territories including the Services Sports Control Board are expected to participate in the maiden Khelo India Para Games which will witness para athletes vie for honours in 7 disciplines including para athletics, para shooting, para archery, para football, para-badminton, para table tennis and para weight lifting. The events will be held across three SAI stadiums - the IG Stadium, the Shooting Range in Tughlaqabad and the JLN Stadium.

Khelo India Para Games will help create larger talent pool for major international events: Pramod Bhagat

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