Deaflympics: Jerlin Anika wins three golds in badminton

India’s Jerlin Anika made waves at the recent Deaflympics in Caxias do Sul, Brazil, winning three gold medals in badminton.

J. Jerlin Anika. - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

J. Jerlin Anika made waves at the recent Deaflympics in Caxias do Sul, Brazil, winning three gold medals in badminton. Jerlin secured a gold each in women’s singles, mixed doubles and mixed team event.

Winning three gold medals is a huge achievement in any sport or tournament but not for Jerlin as she rued missing out on a fourth gold on offer. “She is not happy as she missed out on the women's doubles gold. She hates losing and when we were leaving Brazil, she asked me why people are congratulating me, I could not return with all the four golds,” J. Jeya Ratchagen, Jerlin’s father, told PTI.

Jerlin beat Australia’s K. Neudolt for the singles gold medal. In mixed doubles, she and Abhinav Sharma clinched gold by getting the better of Malaysia’s Edmund Seng Keong Teo and Wei Ying Boon. Jerlin also played a crucial role in India’s 3-1 win over Japan 3-1 to win the mixed team gold medal.

The road to success wasn’t an easy one for Jerlin and it was her doting father who ensured that she had a normal childhood after realising that she couldn’t hear or speak. Badminton opened up doors as she started showing interest in the sport after Jaya Ratchagen used to take her with him to a local club where he used to play along with his friends.

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“She started training under coach P. Saravanan at Bose academy in Madurai as an eight-year-old. He used to train with the normal kids but after seeing her, he started learning ways to communicate with her,” Jaya Ratchagan, who is into small-scale business, said.

Jerlin’s mother is a house wife.

Jaya Ratchagen wasn’t aware of Deaflympics. It was during a local tournament in 2017 that an official from Madurai district administration told him about it. Soon, Jerlin, as a 13-year-old, secured fifth place as the youngest player in her maiden appearance at the 2017 Deaflympics in Turkey. She went on to win two silver and a bronze at the Asia Pacific Badminton Championship in 2018 in Malaysia.

A year later, she returned with a gold, two silver and a bronze from the World Deaf Badminton Championship in China.

Funding problems

However, it was a struggle for Jaya Ratchagan to provide her with proper nutrition and sports accessories due to lack of funds. In 2019, Jerlin’s prowess in badminton was recognised by HCL Foundation’s ‘Sports for Change’ initiative and she was enrolled as a sports scholar under the Power of One (PO1) My Scholar Project.

She received a scholarship, which helped her take care of her kits, nutritional and other logistic requirements.

“She received a scholarship of ₹3.25 lakh and we also supported the travel of her coach and father to accompany her for the Deaflympics. We are just happy to play a small role in her success,” HCL Foundation director Nidhi Pundhir said.

The foundation also stepped in when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2020 to ensure that her training wasn’t affected.

Soon, virtual sessions were conducted, special permission for her on-court training was sought and all these helped her as she emerged as one of the decorated athletes at the Deaflympics last week.

Jerlin has now set her eyes on the world championships in 2023 in Brazil, but her next big hurdle is the Class 12 board examinations. “She hates studies but she will have to sit for her Class 12 board exams in 15 days’ time, so she is bit nervous,” Jaya Ratchagen said.

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