We Can Be Anything and Can Do Anything; Women Have Been Breaking Those Glass Ceilings: Manasi Joshi


The accolades keep coming for Manasi Joshi.

India’s para-badminton star was named as one of the ‘Next Generation Leaders’ by the Time magazine earlier this week, and today on the occasion of the International Day of Girl Child, the 31-year-old becomes the first Indian para-athlete to have a doll modelled to her likeness as part of the Barbie SHEROES family.

“Sports helped me break stereotypes, I now want to use that experience to be an enabler for others,” Joshi had told the TIME magazine and now having a doll modelled after her, she feels representation is also key as it can have a positive impact on young children, especially young girls.

“I think it is an immense honour for me to have a doll modelled to my likeness. To be a part of the SHEROS family after Dipa Karmakar,” Joshi told News18.com in an exclusive interview.

“We have many other para athletes like Madison de Rozario, who is a wheelchair racer, and Sumeyye Boyaci, who is a para-swimmer who have been included. To have a doll modelled after me as the first Indian para-athlete is an immense honour,” she added.

“When a child plays with a doll, they understand that anything is possible. When a person with a disability looks at the doll, who has not been able to shatter the stereotype associated with the disability and as a woman, be it from any race, colour and culture, they can see that they can see that they can do it too or anybody can do it. Once they grow up, they will realise that anything is possible,” she explained.

Joshi joins the likes of Frida Kahlo (fine artist), Naomi Osaka (tennis player), Patty Jenkins (filmmaker), Nicola Adams Obe (boxing champion), Ibtihaj Muhammad (fencing champion), Bindi Irwin (conservationist)Madison De Rozario (Wheelchair Racing champion) and Sumeyye Boyaci (Para-Swimming Champion) among many others, in celebration of extraordinary women who inspire girls around the world to be anything they dream to be.

Among the New Generation Leaders, Joshi finds her name alongside Ofelia Fernandez, Latin America’s youngest lawmaker at only 20 years old; pop star Halsey, 26; prosthetics entrepreneur Mohamed Dhaouafi; marine bio-geochemist Emma Camp; designer turned advocate for the homeless Bas Timmer; trailblazing British model Munroe Bergdorf.

“We can be anything and can do anything. Women have been breaking those glass ceilings. When you see people like Madison and Sumeyye, it definitely helps shatter those stereotypes,” she added.

And she has been breaking stereotypes.

When on December 2, 2011, Manasi met with an accident as her two-wheeler was hit by a truck, her life came to a screeching halt. Her left leg had to be amputated.

She was back walking barely a month and a half later.

Having played badminton from age 6, she was persuaded by her friend and para-badminton player Neeraj George’s suggestion to take up the sport professionally again. She eventually left her job as a software engineer and pursued badminton, a sport in which she had played at school and district level, to stay in shape.

She made headlines last year when she defeated compatriot and world no.1 Parul Parmer in the women’s singles SL3 (standing/lower limb impairment/minor) final at the BWF Para-Badminton World Championships.

Social media hailed her achievement as her feat in the initial days overshadowed by PV Sindhu’s gold at the World Championships.

ALSO READ | The Inspiring Story of Manasi Joshi – TIME Magazine’s Next Generation Leaders

That all changed at the turn of the year, when the world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The lockdown was necessary but as a woman and a person with disability it was difficult. As a para-athlete, not getting access to particular training facilities at home made me feel that I don’t have many opportunities to go out,” Joshi said.

“I was training at my house with my fitness trainer. As I could not go out, I worked on my fitness and endurance.  After inter-state travel was allowed. I went to Mumbai to get my new running blades and I have been training with them since then. I have been training with whatever facility that I get,” she added.

She had moved to Hyderabad in 2018 to train at the Pullela Gopichand academy, but with the lockdown impacting her training, she moved her training to Bangalore currently.

That is not the only new thing in her training regime. She has a running blade to help her with her fitness, a video of which she posted on social media.

“The new blade is for my fitness purpose and I have another for badminton,” she explained.

“With the new blade I am relearning how to run again. Running on a blade is completely different from what able bodied people do. It is skill and there is a lot to learn and I am still learning. The blade has been helping me keep myself fit,” she added.

Up next for Joshi will be securing a spot in the mixed doubles event, with partner Rakesh Pandey, at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

When asked what changes she has made in her preparations, she said: “Playing doubles is completely different from playing singles. You have to be very quick at the net and defense has to be better. Singles are half court and for doubles I am having to train corner to corner.”

“I am training hard with my running blade so that I can implement it on my badminton blade to be able to play long court,” she added.

With para-badminton being part of the Summer Games for the first time Joshi feels it will be an honour not only for her, if she manages to qualify, but every player in Tokyo come next year.

“It is an opportunity for all the para badminton players. Everyone wants to be an Olympian or Paralympian once in their life and I am leaving no stone unturned,” she signed off.

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