Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj, the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar (Noida), scripted history on September 5 by bagging silver medal in the men's singles badminton event at the Tokyo Paralympics.
The 2007-batch Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre, Suhas is the country's first-ever civil servant to seal a podium finish at the Paralympics.
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A sportsperson par excellence and a respected bureaucrat, Suhas LY, as he is popularly known, holds many distinctions to his name.
Ranked as world number 3 in standing lower 4 (SL4) category before Sunday’s final match, 38-year-old Suhas took charge as Noida DM on March 31 last year when the district was, like many parts of the country, a Coronavirus hotspot. In the subsequent months, Suhas was credited for containing the spread of COVID-19 in Delhi’s neighbouring satellite town.
From his long working hours during the day as the district’s top bureaucrat in the pandemic to practicing his game at night, Suhas had a tough schedule in the run-up to the competition, his wife Ritu Suhas told Moneycontrol.
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“It was like a passion to the extent of madness. Because I cannot realise anybody returning from office at 9-10 pm and then going to the stadium for training,” said Ritu, a Provincial Civil Service (PCS) posted as additional district magistrate (ADM) in Ghaziabad, the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh town.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were among the first to congratulate Suhas on the medal.
The Karnataka-born engineering graduate, Suhas, with a leg impairment, cracked civil services to become India’s first specially-abled IAS officer in 2007. His first posting was in Agra where he met Ritu (who later became his wife) during an official function in 2008. They live in Noida and have two kids - an eleven-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son.
Suhas always loved sports but started playing professionally six years ago when he was DM of Azamgarh. Then Gaurav Khanna, the current coach of the country's para-badminton team, spotted him and push-started his professional journey and the subsequent international recognition, according to a report in Hindustan Times.
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The same year, Suhas became the first bureaucrat to represent India in a sport internationally. He made it to record books by bagging the gold medal for India at the Asian Para Badminton Championships, 2016, held in China. Suhas thus became the first unranked player to win a gold medal at an Asian championship.
In 2017, he won gold medal in men’s singles and doubles at the BWF Turkish Open Para-Badminton Championships held in Turkey and a bronze in the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Sports apart, Suhas was awarded the Yash Bharti, the highest civilian honour of Uttar Pradesh in 2016. Before the current positing, Suhas has been DM of Prayagraj and Jaunpur districts of Uttar Pradesh, too.
“It is a proud feeling. I have seen him closely. He represents the spirit of so many people. As his wife, since he has put in so much heart into it, I am actually very much relaxed and relieved since he got what he wanted so passionately,” said Ritu who won the title of Mrs India in 2019.
Ritu says she hasn’t watched any matches that her husband has played since 2016. “Win or lose is okay. But I can’t tackle the heartburn that someone has after putting in so much passion into a game,” she said.
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India has already registered its best ever performance at a single edition of the Tokyo Paralympics concluding on September 5, with the medal haul crossing double figures (18) for the first time in the history. Before this, India’s best performance at the Paralympics was a total haul of four medals, which was registered in two separate editions (1984 and 2016).
"He (Suhas) has made India proud today. This is a happy moment for us. Being a mother, I am very proud of him," Jayashree CS, mother of Suhas L Yathiraj told news agency ANI after he bagged silver medal on Sunday.