Manasi Joshi: I’d rather appear in smallest article on sports page than in inspirational feature in weekend special

Manasi Joshi rose to the top spot in the BWF mixed doubles (SL3-SU5) rankings, alongside Ruthick Ragupathi.

Manasi Joshi rose to the top spot in the BWF mixed doubles (SL3-SU5) rankings, alongside Ruthick Ragupathi.

Manasi Joshi rose to the top spot in the BWF mixed doubles (SL3-SU5) rankings, alongside Ruthick Ragupathi. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Manasi Joshi rose to the top spot in the BWF mixed doubles (SL3-SU5) rankings, alongside Ruthick Ragupathi.

“As a sportsperson, I’d rather appear in the smallest article on the sports page than in an inspirational feature in a weekend special.” 

Manasi Joshi’s instinctive response hits home.  

“There were a number of para athletes before me who have had record-breaking feats, but there was hardly anything written on them. In general, there is a sympathy angle which we go for… we call it inspiration porn. I always argue that sports news about people with disabilities should be covered. Whenever it happens, if headline-worthy, it should be there as well,” Manasi, the reigning singles (SL3) World No. 1 for 18 weeks now, tells Sportstar. 

As the Joshis celebrated Manasi’s rise to the top spot in the BWF (Badminton World Federation) mixed doubles (SL3-SU5) rankings, alongside Ruthick Ragupathi, with a family dinner on Thursday, the 33-year-old para-shuttler from Ahmedabad said that wider coverage in the media would ensure a rise in fan engagement.  

“I think our fanbase needs to improve because our sports are not telecast on TV. Once that happens, the writing for those fans will increase and once that increases, more fans will be created. As of now, I think it is more of a financial hiccup than anything else, but I will be really happy to see it pretty soon. Maybe the next or next-to-next Paralympics.” 

Nonetheless, the 2019 World Championship winner is thrilled with the response she has been getting on social media since her latest achievement.  

Sport is about empowering others. I think the same attitude should be there for people with disabilities.

—  says Manasi Joshi

“The growth of social media has made people more aware. It is a good thing. Ruthick is very young, but we train together and hang out if any get-together is there in the para badminton circuit in Hyderabad. We meet almost every day. He’s really kind. He is very aggressive on the court but off it, he is a very sweet and caring person. His family also keeps in touch. He is very genuine in terms of his approach and very hardworking.” 

Manasi and Ruthick first paired up in November 2021 for Uganda International, where they struck gold. In the ongoing season, they have featured in five international tournaments and have won two silver and as many bronze medals. 

Talking about what makes them so strong as a unit, Manasi says, “He has a very good smash, and he’s very good with his defence also. We understand each other. He knows what shots I’m going to take, and I know what he is going to do. I try to create shuttles for him so that he can finish them off quicker. I’m very good with my variety in services, so whenever we win the toss, I make sure I am the first one to choose to serve. We have an advantage that way. I have a disability in my lower limb, while Ruthick has a disability in the upper extremity. So, it’s a good combination... we both cover for each other’s impairments.” 

India registered its best-ever haul of 19 medals at the Paralympics last year, and Manasi believes this achievement can help the country make up the leeway in fostering inclusion for people with disabilities.  

“The number of participants, the medals that we won (in Paralympics) have spiked. So now, more people with disabilities are taking up sports. I get messages from so many young boys and girls. The interest in para sports has increased drastically but I won’t say it was not there. It was always there. It was just that people didn’t know how to go about things. After Deepa (Malik) ma’am became its president, we have seen a lot of positive change in the governance and structure of PCI (Paralympic Committee of India). 

“There should not be a separate batch for people with disabilities. There should be no segregation, but inclusion in every aspect of the sport. When every section of society can pursue what it likes, then we can say real development has taken place. I wish more people start training people with disabilities. Sport is about empowering others. In the Paralympic Games, there are 529 medals to be won. Until now, we have only won a maximum of 19. So, let’s have a bigger target.” 

Para badminton is not a part of the Commonwealth Games, but Manasi hopes to participate in the showpiece event someday. “We always wonder why it isn’t there because it would have been a great opportunity for us to showcase our talent. We thought it would be added, but only in 2020 did our sport get added to the Paralympics roster. So, it’s quite a new sport that we all are playing and adding our sport to such multi-sport events requires a huge leadership decision. Let’s just hope we have our event included in future editions.” 

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