India is making a debut in badminton at the Tokyo Paralympics, 2020 and Palak Kohli will represent the country in the event. She is the youngest para-shuttler to qualify for the games and the only one to compete in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. Hailing from Jalandhar, Punjab, throughout most of her life, Palak was advised by many to exercise caution in her day-to day routine and focus primarily on her studies.
When sporting events were held at school, she was repeatedly advised by her teachers to not participate in games. She was born with an under developed arm and questioned by everyone she met about it. She was constantly told that a career in sports is not her cup of tea. However, she was determined to pursue her interest and was eventually discovered by her coach Gaurav Khanna who introduced her to the world of para sports.
In 2016, she enrolled at the Gaurav Khanna Excellia Badminton Academy in Lucknow and started training with him. In an interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kohli said, “It became extremely important to prove it myself. I thought that if I don’t try then other girls from the country will also not realise that they can do this.”
During her initial training, she practiced and worked hard and learned how to use the racquet. Slowly, she started achieving her targets. Palak Kohli made her debut in 2019, at the Para Badminton Nationals and won 3 gold medals. However, in 2019 during the BWF Ranking events, she suffered a bone marrow edema in her left leg.
She was on bed rest for a few months. Nevertheless, because of her zeal and enthusiasm for the, under the strict, watchful eye of her coach, she made a solid comeback. During the lockdown, Palak did not return home. Instead, she stayed at the academy to train for the Paralympics.
Her coach made the athletes practice outdoors in a makeshift court everyday despite the harsh weather conditions. Braving through these hurdles she says, has made her a tougher, better player.
In an interview to the Hindustan Times, Palak Kohli talks about her disability and the society’s reaction to it. Not one to cry over split milk, she says that she draws her confidence from her acceptance of her reality and will work hard to move past roadblocks.
“Whatever has happened has happened. We need to accept it. I used to feel why people have two hands, and why God did this to me! All this changed when I stepped into the field of sports. The moment I came to Lucknow, I saw many para players here… their smiles, enjoyment, and nobody felt that they are differently abled,” says Palak.
Palak believes that her fellow athletes are her biggest support system and have made a positive impact in her life. At the Dubai Para Badminton International 2021, Palak Kohli won a silver medal in women’s singles SU5 category and two bronze medals in doubles and mixed doubles.
Palak will debut at the Tokyo Paralympics, 2020 and compete in the women’s singles in the SU5 category. In the mixed doubles, she will compete in the SL3-SU5 category. Her ability to work hard and have a positive outlook in life despite the hurdles she has faced, should be admired, and applauded thoroughly.
Featured Image Source: The Bridge