By A Special Correspondent
Bonn, Germany, October 20, 2020
India’s Para badminton player Manasi Joshi hopes featuring on the cover of the latest edition of the TIME magazine as the Next Generation Leader would help change perceptions on disability.
Joshi recently became the first-ever Para athlete to feature on the cover of the more than 50-years-old global news magazine.
The occasion soon turned into a double delight with the star player getting a one-of-a-kind Barbie doll modelled to her likeness on International Day of Girl Child, celebrated on October 11.
Speaking about the honour, Joshi says, “I am honoured to be a part of TIME 2020 Next Generation Leaders and to make it to the cover of TIME Asia. A disabled athlete on the cover of TIME magazine will help change several perceptions on disability and Para sports in India and Asia,” said the world No. 2, who lost her left leg in a road accident, after a lorry hit her.
Joshi is happy the sports platform that Paralympics gives her. “I’m privileged to represent the disability community that is so under represented in India. I am glad I got a voice because of my sport. I’m fortunate to use this voice to raise awareness about prosthetics, road safety, disability and inclusion.”
From setting examples to breaking stereotypes, 31-year-old Joshi is a trailblazer since she took up the sport following an accident in 2011.
Joshi made the headlines in 2019 after winning the World Championships in Basel. She defeated compatriot and world No.1 Parul Parmar in the women’s singles SL3 final.
With accomplishments, come responsibilities, and Joshi admitted that she would need to handle it with care and use her time and energy to better self and society.
“I hope I keep inspiring the younger generation with my achievements. I think I will keep on playing my sport and speak about the importance of inclusion and diversity on various forums.
“To be the first Para athlete to be recognised in this list as an advocate of rights for people with disability in India feels like a great achievement. I am glad to be able to contribute to the Paralympic movement in India through my sport and voice it is providing me,” says Joshi.
Her success and popularity make Joshi a role model for many young girls who dream of becoming like her in India.
“I had amazing role models while I grew up in India. They shaped my outlook towards life and inspired me to be vocal about my thoughts and beliefs. This recognition of breaking stereotypes humbles me. I have always believed in listening to my heart, setting goals and working towards them. I have never let my disability stop me from doing anything that I set out to do,” says Joshi.
With the Barbie doll modelled to her likeness, she joins Australian Paralympic medallist Madison De Rozario and Turkish Para swimming champion Sumeyye Boyaci among many others, in celebration of the extraordinary women who inspire girls around the world.
“It’s incredible to have a One of a Kind (OOAK) Barbie Doll modelled after me. I am honoured to be in this league of Role Models and join Madison De Rozario and Sumeyye Boyaci and other empowering Barbie SHEROES, who have made young girls believe that one can be anything they want to be!
“I believe that education around inclusion and diversity should start early and I hope that my story inspires many more lives, encourages young girls to harness their true potential to fight hard and become whoever they set out to be.”
Joshi’s latest recognition delights Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) President Deepa Malik. She says this will give a great boost to the Indian Paralympic Movement.
“We need role models like Manasi to come and inspire the next generation and new talent pool of Para athletes in India, in fact not just Para athletes especially the women and young girls in India who can identify with her story, her success, her determination, her grit and her never give up attitude.
“It’s like a celebration of the success and recognition of Para sport as the main stream in India. Paralympics in India is a new thing. Now athletes are getting their due; they are getting the respect they deserve and their medals are being celebrated. I am very happy for her and wish her all the best in her future endeavours,” says Malik, who emphasised that the newly-found PCI is working hard to ensure there’s an “athlete-centric growth of Para sport in the country and that its athletes are celebrated.”
Currently Joshi trains with partner Rakesh Pandey to qualify for the mixed doubles event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. She has a new running blade to help her with her fitness, a video of which she posted on social media.
“This is my third everyday prosthesis with first two being one for walking and one for playing my sport badminton. I am still learning the running skills, using more of my hands and shoulders and trying to increase pace. Every day I am getting more and more strong in the running prosthesis.
“I am training virtually with my fitness trainer Leandi Van Zyl and have also started going for badminton training at nearby courts. Now I’m training twice a day eating the right foods and making most of my time,” says the Gujarat-based shuttler, a bronze medallist at Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games.
She ends stressing hard work, ambition and perseverance are important for success.
“My message to young girls is ‘Do not listen to anyone who say that you can’t do something. You have to dream and give it all, because dreams do come true’.”
By A Special Correspondent