With their sights already set on Paris 2024, India's top para badminton stars Pramod Bhagat and Sukant Kadam have started their training in Europe and are hopeful that the overseas training stint will benefit in their quest of winning upcoming major championships in the new season.
Bhagat and Kadam, who will undergo training in different countries in Europe for the next two months, are currently in Cartagena, the port city of Spain, which will also host the Spanish Para Badminton International - a Level 1 tournament- from March 8.
BWF has recently announced new grades and levels in the tournament structure for the Para Badminton calendar.
"The main focus of this training stint is to acclimatize to the weather and court conditions here, adapting to European playing style, learning new skills and tactics etc. This stint will also help us know different approaches of players to training and competitions," said Kadam from Cartagena.
"We have been planning for this exposure stint for a long time now but it was put on halt due to the Covid-19 situation worldwide."
The Indian duo are also looking to have training stints with the French Para Badminton National team which boasts of the likes of Paralympic champion in men's singles SL4 Lucas Mazur, besides German Para Badminton National team.
"With Paris 2024 little more than two years away, we hope that training with the French team will benefit us in our preparation for the big event. Besides, we are looking to adapt to the new BWF rule on different grades and levels in the tournament," Kadam, who ended 2021 with the elusive Nationals title in Odisha.
Bhagat, the men's singles SL3 Paralympic champion, added: "After the Paralympics, I wanted a personal space for myself where I can chalk out plans for the year 2022 and beyond. I believe this training cum competition programme will help me focus on my goal of winning the major championships including the Asian Para Games, World Championships and Paris 2024 Paralympics."
Bhagat, who settled for silver at the recent Para Badminton Nationals in Odisha, said he lost his focus between two roles as a player and organizer. "But I am happy to have played a role in making the Nationals reach a new level. It has been a busy and hectic last month. Now, the focus is all on my game and executing my plans during competitions."
For Kadam, the men's singles SL4 Nationals title was a "long pending in the bucket list."
"I learnt big lessons in 2021. Didn't get much opportunity to play due to Covid restrictions but happy to start my Dream of Paris with gold medals in Uganda International and the Nationals," sais Kadam, who defeated Paralympian Tarun Dhillon 21-12, 19-21, 21-18 for the title.
"I am excited for 2022. It will be special with the new level system introduced by BWF. I think I am prepared enough and I just need to trust the process and execute myself," added Kadam, raring to open the season with good results.
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