Para badminton player Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj on Sunday dedicated the silver medal he won at the Tokyo Paralympic Games in SL4 class to his late father, who had always dreamed of him excelling in his career as well as in sports.
“I remember my late father because of whom I stand here and I got my medal. There are a lot of people I wish, I remember and I thank, because of who I am here, I could deliver on big occasions. Extremely happy and proud moment,” Yethiraj was quoted as saying in a video posted by the Paralympic Committee of India.
Yethiraj, a Computer Engineering graduate from National Institute of Technology, Suratkal, Karnataka, and who is currently posted as the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar in Uttar Pradesh, said winning this medal means the world to him.
“For any sportsperson, there is no higher achievement than winning a medal in the Olympics or Paralympics. So this medal means the world to me,” he said.
Yathiraj, who has an impairment to one of his ankles, said he never allowed the impairment to stop him from following his dream.
“I never saw myself with the impairment and I owe this mindset to my parents. I was not given any special treatment since the beginning. My parents made me play with schoolmates and allowed me to participate in inter-school races which many parents of special needs children didn`t. I also think that like most good things, stigma too begins at home. All the strength to lead a proper life begins at home,” he once told the media.
Yathiraj, who mostly practices badminton after work — from 8.30 pm till midnight daily, started playing badminton seriously in 2012.
“I played badminton at school level and it was my favourite pastime in the civil services academy. Some of my colleagues lauded me for the way I played and suggested that I should take it up professionally. My wife Ritu also thought the same, so I went ahead. My interest started in 2012, the deformity in my ankle forced me to play sports more and stay more active. It was then I came to know about Para badminton and it has been upwards from there.”
It was because of his father`s dream that Yathiraj appeared for the Civil Services.
In 2007 he began working at the Indian Administrative Service [IAS] in Uttar Pradesh cadre. In 2020 he was appointed district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar.
“I was enjoying myself [working as a software engineer] in SAP Labs India. Worked in Bengaluru, Bangkok, and Germany for the company. But my father`s death in 2005 brought me home and reminded me of his wish to see me as an IAS officer.”
Pursuing badminton is a balancing act for Yathiraj as he can devote time to it only after completing his duties as an IAS officer. But the 38-year-old has managed that admirably well so far.
Yathiraj has won bronze in Team Standing SL3-SU5 at the Asian Para Games, Jakarta in 2018, and gold in Men`s Singles at Asian Para Badminton Championship 2016. He has thus far won five gold, four silver, and seven bronze medals in other international competitions.
But the silver medal that he won on Sunday tops them all and will be a motivation for him to continue pursuing para-badminton for some more years.
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