Manish Kaurav was not sure of winning a medal at the Hangzhou Asian Para Games on Tuesday but he remembers his wife and Indian para canoe team-mate Prachi Yadav telling him “we will not go empty-handed”.
The couple achieved a rare distinction of husband-wife winning medals in the Asian Para Games in Hangzhou. Prachi won the gold medal in canoe KL2 event on Tuesday to add to her silver in the VL2 category on Monday.
Manish picked a bronze in men’s canoe KL3 event on Tuesday.
“We met each other while training at the MP Water Sports Academy in Bhopal and married three years ago. It was the best thing to have happened to us,” Prachi told PTI from Hangzhou.
“We support each other as we are always together in ups and downs of our sport career. We inspire each other,” she added.
Prachi, a Tokyo Paralympian, had gone into Tuesday’s competition full of confidence but Manish was a bit unsure of whether he will get a medal.
“Every athlete competes to win a medal but you never know,” said Manish.
“But I remembered Prachi telling me before my event that we should not go empty handed from this Asian Para Games, that gave me the energy and confidence,” Manish said.
“Otherwise also, she inspires me. I always think like if she can achieve success, why should not I. She is the reason for my medal.” The couple is a trailblazer in the country as Prachi became the first Indian para canoe gold medallist in the Asian Para Games, as the sport has been introduced for the first time in the Hangzhou edition.
The 28-year-old Prachi, who is paralysed below the waist, clocked 54.962 to cover the 500m distance and win gold in the KL2 event, meant for athletes who propel themselves with their arms and partial trunk and leg function.
Manish, 27, clocked 44.605 to take the bronze in KL3 event, which is competed among athletes who have full function of their arms and trunk, and partial function in the legs. He has locomotive disorder since birth.
Both are from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh.
This is not the first time the couple has won medals in an international event. They did it in April during the Asian Canoe Championships in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where Prachi won gold medals in VL2 and Kl2 events while Manish bagged top spot in KL3 event.
“But this is Asian Para Games, the most prestigious sports event in the continent. We have realised a dream,” said Prachi.
“We want to do this (win medals together) in Paris Paralympics but we need foreign training,” said Manish.
Prachi took part in the Tokyo Paralympics and reached the final round where she finished eighth and last. She has already qualified for the Paris Paralympics.
“I could not do well in the finals in Tokyo but I am hoping to improve myself in Paris next year. I have to plan my training and competition schedule for Paris Paralympics. For me also, foreign training is something I want,” she said.
Manish, on the other hand, is yet to qualify for the Paris Paralympics.
Both Prachi and Manish began as para swimmers but later shifted to para canoeing on the advice of their respective coaches.
Prachi took to swimming in 2007 but it was more of an exercise than of pursuing an active sport then. She later won a gold medal in the National Para Swimming Championships.
In 2015, she was advised by her swimming coach VK Dabas to shift to para canoe. In 2018, she then relocated to Bhopal where she met coach Mayank Thakur.
She faced problems initially as para canoeing and kayaking were new sport in the country. There was no boat for para players and that was the biggest challenge.
Thakur then built a ‘jugaad’ (makeshift) boat for her by attaching an oil drum to the normal canoe boat to balance it while on water.
“The modern boat used by abled-bodied canoe athletes cannot be used by para canoeists. Moreover, one boat costs Rs 4 to 5 lakhs. So I made a boat for her, fixing an oil can on one side of the boat by using a pair of bamboo poles,” Thakur told PTI.
“This was done to balance the boat while on water.” Thakur later built many more such boats for other para canoeists.
“The cost of this boat we built is about Rs 80,000,” he said.
But after reaching Tokyo Paralympics final, Prachi has got some sponsors and she has been training with the modern para canoe boats bought from abroad.
“I am now using the modern boats which are used by athlete in big competitions,” Prachi said.
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