Indian para-shuttler Sanjeev Kumar who has brought laurels for the country is struggling for funds for the upcoming tournaments and urged the government to provide financial assistance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
"I was at the fourth rank in the race to Tokyo Olympics in April this year but now my ranking has come down to tenth as I have missed China, Denmark and Japan tournaments. I had a very good opportunity to win gold in Denmark but I could not due to lack of fund," Sanjeev told .
"I have to play a future tournament to qualify for the Olympics and for that I have written to Punjab Sports Department to help me saying that I am the top contender to qualify for Olympics but they replied that we can't give money," he added.
The Punjab shuttler is the only Indian from wheelchair category who is in top 10 of the rankings. In world rankings, he was at the sixth spot during April but now he is on 13th because did not play tournaments regularly.
"I had also written to the Sport Ministry and Sports Authority of India (SAI) but no reply from them. In my letter which was sent last year, I have said that I am the number one badminton player and can qualify for the Olympics. If the government will not support then players will suffer. Sometimes people help me with some amount of money but all tournaments can't be played on that money," Sanjeev said.
"I am still hoping that I can do because a player never loses hope. See I am not in a position to invest from my pocket because my position is not that strong. My father was sevadar and I started my career by taking loan and gold loan and charity from people and I started playing through the help of people. My wheelchair is also given by Mayo 94batch," he added.
Sanjeev said he had won 20 gold, six silver and three bronze medals in national championships and five gold, six silver and seven bronze medals in international meets.
"People have helped and supported me time to time but the Sports Department and the Central Government have never supported me. If they have helped me with 10 or 20 thousands then it will be a another thing. After my father's death my mother's pension is the only source of income because I have no job," Sanjeev said.
"And if I will start working as labour for 5 or 7 thousand I will have to give time to it, in that case, I would not be able to practice and if I am not practising then how will I win a medal for the country," he added.
The para-shuttler criticised the government for not taking care of the differently-abled sportsperson.
"If a player will not participate in Olympics qualification tournaments then how will he qualify. Why government can't send player if they know they have the potential," Sanjeev said.
"I was on strike in front of the CM House demanding job. I said to keep all the medals and certificates if you can't help with the job. You are giving everything to abled body players so why can't to us. After strike they will raise this issue in the upcoming cabinet and will also put a proposal of one per cent quota," he concluded.
( With inputs from ANI )