Para badminton world champion Manasi Joshi on living life without limits

The future of Manasi Joshi, who had just graduated from university, looked bright as she set off for the daily commute to her new job in the early morning of December 2011.

All that changed 10 minutes into her ride when her motorcycle was hit by a truck going the wrong way. With ambulance delays, ill-equipped hospitals and the absence of some surgeons, it would be nearly nine hours before Joshi received qualified medical attention.

Lying in the hospital with her burgeoning career as a software engineer – and possibly her future – seemingly torn away, 22-year-old Joshi wanted to know what limitations she would now face in her life.

But as she soon found out, there weren’t any.

“As I lay in the hospital bed, I actually asked my doctor, ‘Can I play badminton after my amputation?'” Joshi recalled. “And the doctor said, ‘You can climb Mount Everest if you want. You can do everything’.”

While Joshi has yet to climb Everest, since her life-changing accident and amputation, her attitude has been exactly as the doctor ordered.

In the years that followed, she campaigned to become a world champion in para-badminton and advocate for people with disabilities, proving by her personal example that nothing can stop her.

Back on course

Joshi underwent six surgeries in the 45 days she was hospitalized after the accident. When the doctors determined that they could no longer save her left leg, she was amputated above the knee.

Active in various sports since childhood, Joshi especially preferred badminton and returned to sports as part of her rehabilitation. These training sessions made her feel comfortable moving with a prosthesis.

“Back then I was just doing standing kicks, but that gave me a lot of confidence, especially when walking,” Joshi said. “For me, the whole journey started with the sport. When I started my rehabilitation, exercise helped speed it up. When life took me in a different direction, sport was a big part of it.”

More than the physical benefits, Joshi felt the positive impact para-badminton had on her confidence off the court.

“At the beginning of my sports career I had to face several challenges. It was very difficult to leave a job, from a good position, to a person who people thought had no future or career. To convince them, yes, that’s what I want to do,” Joshi said. “Fortunately, I had the great support of my parents. My parents say, ‘You do whatever you want. We know that in any career there is opportunity and income generation.’”

It didn’t take long for that support to resonate across the country. Over the next few years, Joshi joined the Indian national team and competed in the Para Badminton World Championships in Basel, Switzerland in August 2019, where she won a gold medal in the women’s SL3 category.

After this success, she became a recognized figure in India. People sent messages, passers-by asked to be taken with her, and Time Magazine included her in its list of “Next Generation Leaders.” To top off her stormy fame, Joshi released a special Barbie doll in her honor in 2020.

change the game

Now a role model for people at home and around the world, Joshi strives to share her story to inspire others to overcome great obstacles.

“I think that as people with disabilities we face similar problems and accessing opportunities for people can be a game changer,” she said. “Sharing stories is one of the greatest tools. We can inspire the next generation just by telling how the world works for different people in different parts of the world.”

One of the biggest challenges for Joshi early in her career was balancing her time between studying and working as a software engineer.

During this time, she was still working full-time and regularly woke up at 4:00 a.m. to exercise from 4:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and then went to the office. Her training also included three evening sessions.

Her advice to those struggling with challenges of their own is to assert yourself.

“There will be times when you want to give up, but then find that support system around you and let people know your goals. Let people push you when you feel like you’re feeling demotivated,” Joshi said.

“Exercising as a person with a disability can definitely be life-changing. I wish that every disabled person would benefit from sport the way it gave me.”

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