Suhas Yathiraj has scripted history by becoming the first Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer to win a medal at the Tokyo Paralympics. The 38-year-old made the feat special by winning a silver medal at the Tokyo 2020 Para Games on Sunday, losing only to top seed and world champion Lucas Mazur of France 21-15, 21-15-21 in the men’s singles SL4 category.
After taking the opening game 21-15, Yathiraj went down in the second game 17-21. The Indian star did not give up as he kept pushing Mazur who found a way to stay calm and take the gold medal.
Nonetheless, it was a sight to see Yathiraj dominate the Frenchman and turn to his coach and celebrate the points with so much confidence that, at one point, rattled Mazur.
Yathiraj, currently ranked No. 3 in the SL4 category, had beaten Indonesia’s Fredy Setiawan in straight games in the semi-final to assure India another medal at the Tokyo Paralympics.
Yathiraj was sharp and dominating the rallies, taking Lucas Mazur by surprise. In fact, when the two shuttles had met in the group stages, Mazur had taken the match in straight games. But on Sunday, Yathiraj looked pumped up and determined to make the opportunity to count at one of biggest stages of world badminton.
Yathiraj has won India its third medal at the Tokyo Paralympics badminton event after legendary Parmod Bhagat took gold in the men’s singles SL3 category on Saturday. India’s Manoj Sarkar added to the medal tally by winning bronze in the SL3 category.
Covid-19 hero becomes Paralympic hero
Yathiraj has been at the forefront of Covid-19 management in Noida’s Gautam Budh Nagar. Having managed his game and administrative duties wonderfully well over the last 6 years, Yathiraj found ways to keep his training going on even as he led the Covid-19 management initiatives. The 38-year-old had said he found two hours time after work to practice badminton on a daily basis in the lead up to his maiden Paralympics appearance.
Yathiraj began professional badminton as recently as 2016 when he was the district magistrate of Azamgarh district in eastern Uttar Pradesh. It was a tournament that was organized there that caught Yathiraj’s attention. Having been picked as the chief guest at the event, Yathiraj wanted to take part in the competition.
Yathiraj trained under current India para-badminton coach Gaurav Khanna. In his first year at the international level, he won a gold medal at the Asian Championships in Beijing. Gold medals followed at Japan Open and Turkish Open in the following year as Yathiraj continued allocating time for para-badminton despite his busy schedule as IAS officer.