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Paralympics: Bhagat enters badminton final, Manoj loses in semis

 
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Tokyo: Indian shuttlers Pramod Bhagat and Suhas Yathiraj stormed into the men's singles finals of the badminton event in their respective classifications, but Manoj Sarkar and Tarun Dhillon suffered contrasting defeats in their semi-final matches at the Tokyo Paralympics on Saturday.

The 33-year-old Bhagat, who is also the world No. 1 and current Asian champion, scored a 21-11, 21-16 win over Japan's Daisuke Fujihara in the first SL3 class semi-final, which lasted 36 minutes.

With badminton making its debut at the Paralympics this year, Bhagat becomes the first Indian to qualify for the gold medal round in the sport.

The top seeded Indian will clash with Great Britain's Daniel Bethell later in the day.

In SL4 class, Suhas outwitted Indonesia's Fredy Setiawan 21-9, 21-15 in 31 minutes in the first semi-final.

The Noida District Magistrate will face top seed Lucas Mazur of France in the final on Sunday. Mazur staved off a spirited effort from Tarun, scoring a 21-16, 16-21, 21-18 win over the second seeded Indian in a gruelling semi-final that lasted an hour and three minutes at the Yoyogi National Stadium.

Manoj, however, couldn't get into any sort of rhythm against second seeded Bethell and went down 8-21, 10-21 in the other men's singles SL3 class semi-final.

The 31-year-old will now play Fujihara in the bronze medal play-off later in the day.

With only half of the court being used in this classification, Bhagat and Fujihara engaged in long rallies and the Indian came up on top most of the time.

The top seed trailed 2-4 early in the opening game but a series of overhead drops helped him claw back. The duo was 8-8 before the Indian entered the interval at 11-8.

After the break, he continued his good run and eventually pocketed the opening game with six straight points.

It was a Bhagat show in the second game as well as he led all the way to come up trumps. 

Bhagat will pair with Palak Kohli in the mixed doubles SL3-SU5 semi-finals later in the day.

"It was a great game against Fujihara; he pushed me with some great shots. But I had a plan and I executed it very well. I am happy I have reached my maiden Paralympic final but the work is not done yet," said Bhagat after his match.

Bhagat, who had developed a defect on his left leg after contracting polio at the age of 5, has won a total of 45 international medals, including four World Championship golds.

He won two golds and a bronze in men's singles, besides two golds and a silver in men's doubles at the BWF Para world championships in the last eight years.

In the 2019 edition at Basel, he won gold medals in both singles and doubles events.

In the 2018 Asian Para Games, he won two medals – a gold and a bronze. He topped it up with two gold medals and one silver medal at the IWAS World games in 2019.

He clinched two gold medals at the BWF Para World Badminton Championships in Basel, Switzerland in 2019.

This year, Bhagat claimed two gold medals at the Dubai Para Badminton tournament in April when the sport returned after a year-long break due to the pandemic.

Bhagat, who won the singles gold and also paired up with Manoj Sarkar to clinch the men's doubles gold in SL4-SL3 category.

In SL classification, persons with standing/lower limb impairment/severe are allowed to compete.

—PTI