Khelo India Para Games: How 15-year-old Tulika fights cerebral palsy on court

Nearly 1,400 athletes in fray for first edition of the week-long games in New Delhi 

Teenage badminton player Tulika Jadhao fights cerebral palsy with badminton (photo courtesy: SAI)
Teenage badminton player Tulika Jadhao fights cerebral palsy with badminton (photo courtesy: SAI)

NH Sports Bureau

If there is one underlying theme in the world of para athletes — irrespective of the stage — it’s that of the triumph of human spirit. This is what makes the story of Tulika Jadhao, a 15-year-old badminton player born with cerebral palsy and participating in the inaugural Khelo India Para Games, so unique.

The youngster from Buldana, Maharashtra is but one of the 1,400-odd competitors in the fray for the games which was launched by Anurag Thakur, Union minister for information & broadcasting and youth affairs & sports, at the iconic Indira Gandhi Stadium on Monday.  The week-long event is being held at three venues in Delhi.  

Despite being born with a congenital disorder which affects movement, muscle tone and posture, Tulika dares to dream of representing the country one day. “I started playing badminton just for fun in 2018, but when I watched the Tokyo Paralympics, I was in so much awe.

"Especially watching Manasi Joshi (former women's singles world champion) and Pramod Bhagat (currently ranked world number 2 in para-badminton men's singles) was inspiring for me, and I want to become like them one day,” Tulika said after making the semi-final of the women’s singles in the SL3 category, meant for athletes who compete standing, and are impaired in one or both lower limbs with poor walking/running balance, according to Paralympics guidelines. Both Joshi and Bhagat compete in this category.

“It does get difficult because I can’t do much with the right side of my body. Since all my weight is resting on one leg, I am often prone to injury too. And due to cerebral palsy, I also have a visual impairment so I play with spectacles, which makes it harder to gauge the shuttle,”  the sprightly Tulika told the Khelo India media.  

“I am so excited to be here for the Khelo India Para Games and wear this jersey. It’s really a great platform for young people like me to embrace whatever challenge they may have and move forward. I am lucky to have parents who are very supportive and help me every step of the way. I am looking forward to the matches and enjoy every moment of being here,” she said. 

Union minister Anurag Thakur inaugurates the games (photo courtesy: SAI)
Union minister Anurag Thakur inaugurates the games (photo courtesy: SAI)

Playing badminton, as her parents also confirm, has given Tulika a new identity. “When I was younger, people would look at my hand and leg wondering what was wrong with me, and that always made me feel different from others. But having taken up badminton, I feel like I can make a new identity for myself. Many of my friends and family are already very excited for me,” she said. 

Tulika’s determination to represent India has made her move cities to pursue her training. She now lives in Lucknow where she trains under Gaurav Khanna, and feels she has gained a lot in confidence. “There are many players with different challenges who train with us, and I don’t feel different when I am with them. In fact I feel all the more encouraged to develop as a player,” she added. 

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