Neeraj George Baby covers the badminton court with ease and smashes the shuttlecock into the opponent’s turf.
Through fierce dedication and painstaking hard work, this 24-year-old differently-abled player triumphed over all odds to excel in this high energy sport. Neeraj, whose life took a shocking turn when his left leg had to be amputated because of bone tumour during school days, is the first player from Kerala to win an international level badminton championship for the differently-abled.
He clinched a gold in doubles and silver in singles at the 2008 Asian Paralympics Cup and also secured titles in the National level tournaments. The victories have only strengthened his resolve. However, his preparation and performance have been affected by the lack of financial assistance.
Having qualified for the 19th Para-badminton World Championships to be held in Guatemala in November, this prospective medal winner from Aluva is now in search of a corporate sponsor who can fetch him Rs. 1.7 lakh to appear for the competition. Though a bit disappointed over being ignored by the government, other private sponsors and more importantly by the public, his confidence is not shaken. “This is for the third time that I have qualified for the world championships. But I am yet to appear in the tournament. This year, I cannot afford to miss the event as that may spell the end of my career,” says Neeraj. He also notes that other countries offer extensive support to their physically challenged sportspersons.
To support his fight for the recognition of physically challenged sportsmen, Neeraj is now planning to form an association of Para-badminton players, which, he believes, will help in addressing their collective concerns.