At 22, Arhan Bagati, (second from right ) is the youngest Deputy Chef De Mission in the world at the Tokyo Paralympics.
A 54-member Indian contingent arrived in the Japanese capital for the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics 2020.
Competing in nine sports, the Indian team comprises Devendra Jhajharia, seeking his third Paralympics gold in the F-46 javelin throw category, Mariyappan Thangavelu, who won a gold in the last edition in Rio in the T-63 high jump category, and world champion Sandeep Choudhary in F-64 javelin throw category.
Mariyappan will be the flag bearer of the Indian contingent during the opening ceremony on August 24.
The contingent is accompanied by Arhan Bagati, who at 22 is the youngest Deputy Chef De Mission in the world at the Tokyo Paralympics. Arhan, who recently graduated from Pamona College in the USA, has been the Awareness and Impact Ambassador for Paralympics for six years now.
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In 2015, then a class 12th student at the Shri Ram School in Gurugram, Arhan developed the ‘In Rio’ app for assisting para-athletes during the 2016 Rio Games. He is also the founder of the ‘IndTokyo’ app aimed at assisting the Indian Paralympic Athletes participating in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
In an interview with MoneyControl after landing in Tokyo, Arhan speaks about India’s chances in the games and the shift in mindset towards Paralympic games over the years. Excerpts :
Paralympics are beginning in a few days. How prepared are the players?
More prepared than ever before. This is India’s largest-ever contingent, comprising 54 athletes. We are slated to win about 15 medals more than the 12 medals that we have won in all the Paralympic Games so far. It will be India's best-ever performance.
You are the youngest Deputy Chef De Mission of the Paralympic Committee of India? How does it feel?
Firstly, it is a complete honour to have been selected for this role. Especially since this is India’s first-ever post of Deputy Chef De Mission, as a country is only eligible if its contingent has more than 50 players.
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Secondly, it is something that reassures me (as a young person) that the Paralympic Committee of India has a long-term view about the Paralympic Movement, its focus on the youth, and its efforts towards bringing in the generational shift in perceptions about the Paralympics.
Thirdly, I also do feel some pressure because it is a big and important role to fill. However, my most important goal right now is to learn and absorb as much as possible in all aspects from the experienced and learned professionals, so that I will be able to add my own perspective and more value in the future.
How has the government’s support for the Paralympics been so far? Has it changed over the years?
The support from the government has been incredible, and ever-increasing. I feel the 2016 Paralympic Games were the turning point and it has only been climbing from then on. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi's physical interaction with the Indian Paralympic Contingent right after the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games to his recent long, detailed, and personal virtual conversations with some of our athletes, the support has been genuine and a lot. There seems to be a shift in mindsets of people in general towards the Paralympics, a change that is much appreciated.
India made history in the recently-concluded Olympic games. What impact does it have on the players?
To my understanding, the Olympic performances and their subsequent reactions and support will only boost the morale of the players. The hope is that this time the Paralympic players also garner similar, if not the same, amount of zeal, support, love from people in India.