World No. 1 Pramod Bhagat beat Great Britain's Daniel Bethell 21-14, 21-17 in the final of the men's singles SL3 badminton category to win gold at the Tokyo Paralympics on Saturday.
Bhagat, who had only dropped one game en route to the final -- against compatriot Manoj Sarkar in his opening match -- secured his final berth with a 21-11, 21-16 win over Japan's Fujihara in the semis earlier in the day. Bhagat will have a chance to add to his medal tally again Sunday, pairing up with Palak Kohli in the mixed doubles SL3-SU5 bronze medal match.
Sarkar, meanwhile, won bronze after defeating Japan's Daisuke Fujihara 22-20, 21-13 in the third place playoff. Ranked 3rd in the SL3 category in the world, Sarkar is a multiple medalist at the Para Badminton World Championships and Asian Games.
Bhagat's gold is India's fourth at the Tokyo Paralympics after Avani Lekhara in the women's 10m air rifle standing SH1 event, Sumit Antil in the men's javelin throw F64 category and Manish Narwal in the mixed 50m pistol SH1 event earlier Saturday.
Also Read | Manish Narwal Wins Gold, Singhraj Adhana Silver in Shooting at Tokyo Paralympics
It happens to be India’s best haul from a Paralympic Games edition with a total 17 medals -- four golds, seven silvers and six bronzes. The previous best was four medals at the Stoke Mandeville and New York Paralympics in 1984 and Rio Paralympics in 2016.
Bhagat and Bethell were close at the start of the match before the 33-year-old Indian used his experience to pull ahead. He maintained a comfortable lead from then on throughout the opening game. The going was difficult for Bhagat in the second game. He trailed 4-12 at one point before staging a remarkable recovery.
Click | For More Coverage of the Tokyo Paralympics and Olympics From Newsclick Sports
Earlier in the day, with only half of the court being used in SL3 events, meant for persons with standing/lower limb impairment, Bhagat and Fujihara were involved in long rallies. The Indian, invariably, ended scoring from the long exchanges, a testament to his class.
"It was a great game against Fujihara, he pushed me with some great shots. But I had a plan and I executed it very well. I am happy I have reached my maiden Paralympic finals but the work is not done yet," Bhagat was quoted as saying by ESPN after the semis.
Bhagat, one of the most decorated players in the SL3 badminton event, had won two golds at the BWF Para World Championships in the SL3 men's singles and doubles categories in 2019. Born in Attabira, Odisha, he was affected by polio at the age of five.
Read more sports stories from Newsclick