For someone who was himself a six-time gold medallist in the under-20 age group in 400m and relay events in the Junior National Meet, it was also a dream come true for the 32-year-old L. Raju, the qualified trainer who played his role in the emergence of the specially challenged shuttler, Manasi Joshi, as the 2019 Para World Badminton women’s singles champion in Basel (Switzerland) recently.

In a way, contribution of Raju, a qualified physio with degrees in Physical Education, NIS and even yoga in Chennai joined Gopi Academy four years ago, can well be an untold chapter of the success story of Manasi.

“Definitely, it is a different kind of challenge to train Manasi since last four months at Gopi Academy unlike the regular athletes. For, even the slightest mistake from my side can lead to serious complications,” he says.

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“Because of the accident which saw her left leg amputated and she even has a rod in the left fore-arm, I had to study for four weeks her body structure, demands and how to go ahead with the physical conditioning under the guidance of Gopi sir and other support staff,” he explains in a chat with Sportstar .

“By all means it was a complex conditioning programme even as badminton coach J. Rajendra Kumar sir took care of the skills part of the sport. But, to her credit, Manasi never complained though she suffered lot of pain regularly. The best part being she never gave up,” says the trainer, who also worked with Hyderabad under-23 cricket team and is currently the team physio of the national badminton team too.

Interestingly, Raju’s sister being physically challenged back home, he says he could feel the pain of Manasi and programme accordingly a schedule with which she was happy during the two-hour grinding sessions.

“Since she didn’t have knee support, we had to work a lot on strengthening to ensure proper balance in the whole body. It was never easy for her,” he says.

The Kadapa-born physio reveals that though he couldn’t get to the Worlds, he was on the job daily prescribing the training programme depending on the opponent she was facing based on lot of study. “With Gopi sir there, it was easier for us,” he added.

“Honestly, though we didn’t think about the gold, I always felt if she gives her best, she should be back with a medal and naturally delighted with her gold,” says Raju gently reminding that he had to quit his athletics career for want of support.

“Well, for me it is also a dream phase to be associated with Gopi Academy and I am grateful to all of them there for being so supportive to my ideas,” he signed off.