First Indian Para Canoe Athlete to qualify for Tokyo Olympics...

Gwalior’s canoeist, Prachi Yadav, has qualified in kayaking and canoeing for Tokyo Paralympic and she was the only entry from India in this category at the mega event.

Prachi Yadav was a champion para-swimmer for India but switched to para canoe at the behest of her coach, who realized she had a better chance of getting to the Paralympics. Prachi has long arms, and the coach thought this would serve her well as a paddler.

Prachi said, “I have no words to express my happiness at this moment. I had never thought of qualifying for the Olympics. My family is on cloud 9 after learning about my qualification.”

Prachi has a disability below her waist.

For a game like kayaking and canoeing, legs play an important role. As I can’t use my legs, I have to use the upper part of the body to move the boat. It becomes even more difficult when you are competing at the international level. However, with the help of coach Mayank Thakur and executive member of IOA BS Kushwaha, I could manage to reach this level in my career,” said Prachi.

Hailing from a middle-class idle class family, Prachi had lost her mother to cancer in 2003.

“I have two siblings among whom I am the second. My father, Jagdish Yadav, is a retired government employee. It was not easy to take up canoeing as our financial condition was a big challenge,” said Prachi.

Even for participating in the World Championship from which she has secured the qualification, she had to run from pillar to post. “Coaches and other people helped me financially and sent me for the qualification event. I can’t repay the support they have given to me,” said Prachi.

Her coach Mayank Thakur who is also chairperson, of Para India Kayaking and Canoeing Association, had built a special boat for her practice.

“She did not have a boat. As she was a promising player me and my team made a special boat for her. Our efforts paid dividends in the form of her Paralympic qualification. She has the potential to win medals for the country,” told Thakur.

As there were no para players, Prachi had to practice with the other players. “She is an amazing talent. She always practiced with the normal category players. I think this has also helped her develop better endurance and strength,” said Thakur.

Recently Prachi has won a Gold medal in Asian Championship Rayong Thailand Women VL2 Category.

Executive member, IOA, BS Kushwaha said, “This is exemplary. She has made all of us proud. Such athletes will motivate others in the future. We have a full-fledged para water sports centre in Bhind where such players are developing.”

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