While the country is enjoying the historic Thomas Cup win for its badminton team in Bangkok, Jarlin Anika is another Indian shuttler who is making waves with her unprecedented gold-medal winning feat at the Deflelympics in Brazil.
The 18-year-old hearing-impaired shuttler from Madurai also achieved something unique – three gold medals at the 24th Summer Deaflympics at Caxius do Sul in Brazil, just days before the Indian men’s team beat Indonesia to win the Thomas Cup.
Anika won gold medals in the women’s singles, mixed doubles and mixed team event.
Three gold medals is a big achievement in any sport or tournament but not for Jerlein because she was sad to lose the fourth gold in the offer.
“She is not happy because she missed out on the gold in the women’s doubles. She hates losing and when we were leaving Brazil, she asked me why people were congratulating me, I couldn’t come back with all four golds, “Anika’s father Jaya Jaya Ratchagen told PTI during a conversation.
Anika defeated Kududalta of Australia for the singles gold medal, while in the mixed doubles event, she and Abhinav Sharma won the yellow metal by defeating Edmund Seng Keong To and Wei Ying Boon of Malaysia.
She was also instrumental in India winning the mixed team gold medal by beating Japan 3-1.
The road to success was not easy for Anika and it was her dotting father who made sure that her childhood was normal when she realized that she could neither hear nor speak.
The doors of badminton opened when Jaya Ratchagen took him with her to a local club where she was playing with her friends and then she started showing interest in the game.
“She started training at the Bose Academy in Madurai at the age of 8 under Coach P Sarvanan. He used to train with normal kids but after seeing her, he started learning ways to communicate with her, “said Jaya Ratchagan, who is in small scale business.
Anika’s mother is just a house wife.
While the Olympics and Paralympics are very popular, Jaya Ratchagen did not know about the Deflympics and it was during a local tournament in 2017 that an official of the Madurai district administration told her about it and thus began her journey towards glory.
Soon, Anika, at the age of 13, finished fifth as the youngest player in her first appearance at the 2017 Deflympics in Turkey and won two silver and one bronze at the 2018 Asia Pacific Badminton Championships in Malaysia.
A year later, she returned from the World Deaf Badminton Championships in China with one gold, two silver and one bronze.
However, for Jaya Ratchagan, who comes from a humble background, she struggled to provide adequate nutrition and sports equipment due to lack of funds.
In 2019, Jerlein’s prowess in badminton was recognized by the HCL Foundation’s ‘Sports for Change’ initiative and she was named a Sports Scholar under the Power of One (PO1) My Scholar project.
She received a scholarship that helped take care of her kit, nutrition and other logistical needs.
“She was fined Rs. She got a scholarship of Rs 3.25 lakh and we also helped her coach and father to go with her to the Deflimps. “We are happy to play a small role in its success,” said Nidhi Pundhir, Director, HCL Foundation.
When the COVID-19 epidemic broke out in 2020, the foundation also took steps to ensure that its training was not affected.
Soon, virtual sessions were held, special permission was sought for her on-court training, and all of this helped her as she emerged as one of the decorated athletes at the Deflympics last week.
Anika, who has no interest other than racquet sports, is now focused on the 2023 World Championships in Brazil.
However, its next big hurdle is the standard 12 board exam.
“She hates studying, but she has to sit for her standard 12 board exam in 15 days, so she’s a little nervous,” says Jaya Ratchagen.