For any person, adapting to life with disability is always a challenge. The challenge is even greater if s/he is a sportsperson, because the opportunity to play and excel is less compared to their able bodied counterparts. The kind of the facilities they require to pursue sports is rarely available. They do not get enough platforms to showcase their talent. On top of it, they hardly get sponsorship support and recognition for their achievements.
Moreover, occupational hazards for sportspersons with disability are much higher. Being physically vulnerable they are always prone to injury. Even a small injury can ruin their career and shatter their dreams. No wonder why many youngsters with disabilities show least interest to take up sports as a career option.
But call them mad or passionate, some have not only dared to befriend sports, but have gone on to achieve glory for their state and the country, defying all odds on their way. One among these few is Odisha’s para-badminton international Deep Ranjan Bisoyee, who hit the headlines last month, winning the men’s SL3-SL4 doubles bronze medal at the Dubai Para Badminton International in Dubai.
It has been a remarkable journey for Deep who overcame clubfoot (defect in both feet), the demise of his father, family burden, multiple career-threatening injuries and financial constraints to win his first international medal.
Elder of two sons of Ramachandra and Sarala Rani Bosoyee of Fertilizer Township, Rourkela, Deep was born with clubfoot, which is also known as talipes equinovarus. It is a birth defect in which the foot is twisted downward or inward. He has fixed ankles in both legs with little or no movement. Besides, both of his calves are underdeveloped.
But it was divine justice that Deep’s clubfoot has been compensated with a healthy upper body. From his childhood days, he was passionate about fitness and has played cricket, football and badminton at school and college level. He was so hooked to badminton that even when he kept playing till midnight it did not make him tired.
Just when it seemed Deep was ready to make a mark in competitive badminton, the world turned upside down for him with the passing away of his father in 2004. Then a Plus-III first year science student, Deep had to give up sports and start giving tuitions for the sustenance of his family. At that time the family also had a big loan to repay.
But Deep was good in academics and amidst the financial crisis, completed his graduation with botany honours. He also did well in the medical entrance examination, but could not afford to get a seat in any medical college.
In the meantime, destiny continued to play hide and seek with Deep who found a job in HDFC Bank but only to lose it within a year after suffering a road accident. Under pressure to earn for the family, he undertook a variety of jobs that came across his way, including insurance, stock brokering, loan recovery etc.
Lady luck finally smiled at Deep in 2012 when he got a job in Bank of Baroda. While serving at Kantiaposi, a remote place in Angul district, he resumed his love affair with badminton. He also formed a badminton club there and bought a gym, paying Rs 50,000 to keep himself fit.
Deep started playing competitive badminton after he was transferred to Cuttack in 2014. YMCA court, near Barabati Stadium, was the place where he sharpened his skills and started playing state-level tournaments. But shifting to Bhubaneswar in 2016, after getting a State Government job on merit in the Finance Department, proved to be a big turning point for Deep, who found a proper infra facility to train and prepare well for national and international tournaments.
Deep’s hard work and determination to excel started to bear fruit from 2017 when he won three medals in two National para-badminton tournaments that year. “Doubles gold and singles silver at Hyderabad Open Para-Badminton National and doubles bronze at the 1st National Para-Championship in Bangalore immensely boosted my confidence. In 2018, I started taking part in international events. Before winning my maiden international medal in Dubai, I played in four international tournaments albeit without notable success,’’ recalls Deep.
An ambitious sportsman, Deep now aims to win more international medals and become World No 1 in SL4 category.
But the question is will that goal be really achievable considering the fact that the shuttler is now 35 years old?
Deep is very optimistic. “I know age is not on my side. But for me, age is just a number. I am working on my game eight hours a day and seven days a week. I have faith in my ability and I am optimistic of becoming World No 1, even if for a short period,’’ claims Deep, who has been training at Udaan Badminton Academy, Patia and living with his family in RBI Colony, Unit-IV.
Deep, of course, knows it very well that only hard work will not be enough for him to realise his ultimate goal. Financial support and leave from the job will be very much necessary. “Badminton is an expensive sport. I use special shoes, which costs Rs 10,000 a pair. Playing an international tournament involves an expense of around Rs 1.5 lakh. I have been meeting all these expenses from my own earnings,’’ reveals the shuttler.
“As a government employee, I am devoting as many hours as any other employee does. After spending a total of 16 hours a day for office work and badminton, I don’t find much time to rest and be with my family. I know overwork may lead to injury and spoil my sporting dream. But I have no choice,’’ adds Deep, who works as an assistant section officer at the State Secretariat.
In fact, injury has become a regular feature of Deep’s badminton career. He suffered a major calf injury while playing Bangalore National championship in 2017. Next year, he fractured his right leg thrice. Needless to say that most of these injuries occurred due to excessive work.
Taking into consideration all these hazards, one wonders whether chasing the World No 1 goal is a wise decision? “I don’t know whether I will be successful in my mission or not. But I am a person who tries to be the best in whatever he does. Since I am playing badminton, I will try my best to become World No 1. It is the determination that keeps me going,’’ explains the indomitable shuttle.
“I will be grateful to my department authorities if they allow me relaxation from office work while I am preparing for or playing national and international tournaments,’’ Deep signs off.
With Pramod Bhagat ruling the roost as World No 1 in SL3 category, para-badminton has made Odisha proud and famous. If Deep reaches the same position in the SL4 category, it will be icing on the cake.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)
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