Jerleen Anika has proved her mettle at the Deaf Olympics and now the Indian shuttler wants to take the road less traveled by moving to the able-bodied Olympics.
The country’s first deaf athlete to win the Arjuna Award, Jerlin is keen to compete in BWF World Tour events from next year with an ambitious plan to qualify for the Olympics.
The 18-year-old hearing-impaired athlete from Madurai had won three gold medals at the Deaf Olympics held in Caxias do Sul, Brazil in May, earning her the second most prestigious award in sports.
But Jerlin will not rest on his laurels. Instead, he will try his hand at the able-bodied category, and has already started participating in the All India state ranking tournaments.
“He has reached the highest stage in the deaf category, so now he wants to do well in the general Olympics. But it won’t be easy, the level of play there is very high and he has to improve a lot overall. Jerlin’s father Jeya Rachagen told PTI with the help of an interpreter.
“So we are planning to hold some training sessions in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia to have technical sessions by leading international coaches. At the next Olympics, we’ll try, but even if we don’t make it, we’ll keep trying.
“He was in Hyderabad last week to play in the BAI ranking tournament. So he will participate in all the national ranking tournaments, after which he will participate step by step, maybe by the 2028 Olympics he can qualify.”
While the Olympics is a long-term goal, Jerlin’s immediate goal is to win medals at the 6th Deaf Badminton World Championships, which will be held from July 10 to 25 next year in Para de Minas, Brazil.
“Next year’s World Cup in Brazil is the short-term goal. Last time in 2019 he was recognized by HCL Foundation and they have given a lot of support and this time also he will try to come back with medals,” said Jaya Rachagen. who has a small business.
Jerleen, who has been training under P Saravanan since the age of 8 at the Bose Academy in Madurai, won two silvers and one bronze at the 2018 Asian Badminton Championships in Malaysia.
Then, in 2019, he was recruited as a Sports Research Fellow under HCL Foundation’s Power of One Project, which provided him with packages, nutritional and other logistical requirements.
2019 turned out to be a big year as she returned with a gold, two silvers and a bronze from the World Deaf Badminton Championships in China.
However, the icing on the cake was the Deaf Olympics, where she won one gold each in the women’s singles, mixed doubles and mixed team events.
When asked about her reaction after the consultation with Arjuna, Jaya Rachagen said, “He is happy for the achievement, but the amount of happiness he feels he cannot express it.
“As a father, I understand, but he is not in a happy mood because he was brought up that way, he probably still does not fully understand what steps he has taken in his life.”
The award includes a certificate and a cash prize of Rs 15 crore.
So he plans to spend the money.
“He is not yet mature enough to take care of all the monetary rewards, so I have bought a piece of land in his name and plan to build a house for him so that his future is secured,” said Jeya Rachagen.
“He will also be working in the central government after completing his bachelor’s degree. But his focus will always be badminton.”
Jerleen is currently studying BA Economics at Lady Doak College, Madurai.