What could be a better way of celebrating Women’s Day than applauding the spirit of womanhood and the journey of inspiration they have gone through. The story of Manasi Joshi the typical software engineer turned World para-badminton champion, is a true inspiration in every sense of turning your limitations into strengths for paving a bright future for yourself despite all odds.
Until that Friday in December 2011, Manasi was a typical software engineer working for a MNC in the busy Indian metropolis of Mumbai. On that Friday, while returning home from office, disaster struck as she took a U-turn under a flyover; a lorry traveling in the wrong direction ran over her leg. Unfortunately, none turned out to help her at that point, she could receive proper medical care only about nine hours after her accident. This caused a severe damage and made her undergo multiple surgeries after every 5 to 10 days. However, despite untiring efforts, eventually, gangrene set in and there was no choice but to cut off her leg. Probably destiny had some other plans for her.
The horror tragic incident that struck this 22-year-old, dramatically changed her life for good in the most positive way. After struggling for four months to get hold of her new prosthetic leg, she switched to her favourite childhood sport badminton, to help her body regain its balance. This is how her Badminton journey began. She was amazed when people with injuries far more severe than her, actually came up to her and thanked for choosing this sport. At this point Manasi decided to take up to this sport as a full-time career. Her exceptional skills of defeating able-bodied competitors at a corporate tournament caught the eye of a fellow para-badminton player Neeraj George who encouraged her to try out the sport professionally ; paving way for her to the Indian national team, and then representing the country at the World Championships.
However, her career truly transformed when she accidentally met the legendary Indian coach Pullela Gopichand in Ahmedabad. The meeting with Gopichand was the spark Manasi needed to fulfil her burning desire of becoming a world champion. She didn’t even think for a minute, went straight up to him to ask if he would train her. The question brought a smile on his face and he couldn’t say no. In fact, he was more than happy to welcome her to his academy in Hyderabad. Although it appears easy, training a para-athlete was a big challenge for him. Not only the players but the trainers have to also pass through the same hurdles and challenges; same was the case with Gopichand too. To try and get a sense of what it was like for her, he himself played while limping on one leg. Later, he could design a training schedule for Manasi with his coaching staff.
Although she didn’t win for the first time, her efforts, determination, and skills led her to grab gold in Basel, Switzerland at the BWF Para-Badminton World Championship 2019, one of the world’s biggest badminton tournaments. Interestingly, the final was against defending champion and fellow Indian Parul Parma where Manasi had never won a match against her. Manasi began to surge ahead of Parma as the match progressed scoring 13 points in a row, and suddenly, seemingly just like that, she was a World Champion.
Manasi Joshi would have never thought a road crash could pull her from the ordinary path of working as a software engineer and launch her on a different, more meaningful journey. Currently she holds the World No. 2 spot in the SL3 (Standing/lower limb impairment /minor) singles category by the Badminton World Federation.
After her victory, she returned a celebrity and a role model to millions of young girls, which made her realize her responsibility beyond her sporting career. She urged the Indian government to exempt GST on prosthesis and requested a subsidy as it costs her about Rs 25 lakh for a set which has to be changed every five years.
The American doll manufacturer Barbie chose to felicitate Manasi by welcoming her to the BARBIE SHEROES family. The one-of-a-kind (OOAK) Barbie doll modeled to her likeness on the International Day of Girl Child, on October 11, 2020 to celebrate all extraordinary women who are an inspiration to girls around the world. It is indeed a proud moment for India as Manasi Joshi is the second Indian woman after gymnast Dipa Karmakar and the first para-athlete to have a Barbie doll modeled after her.
The TIME magazine also listed Manasi as the next generation leader 2020 in October 2020 making her the first para-athlete in the world and first Indian athlete to feature on the magazine cover, for her untiring fight in the rights of people with disabilities.
Currently, her focus is on Mixed Doubles for the 2020 Paralympics to be held in September 2021. She is working hard with partner Rakesh Pandey to secure a place in the top 6 from her current ranking of 13. Playing doubles may be a new challenge but her ability to excel in unfamiliar situations will definitely create another history.