Born deaf, Rajeev Bagga, India’s ace badminton player, was lucky to have a sports-loving family, with almost all members having played sport at some level. Also, his father, being in the army, taught Rajeev, the virtues of camaraderie and sporting spirit which reflected so distinctly in his personality during his illustrious career. An Arjuna award winner in 1993, Rajeev has been consistency personified when it comes to winning gold medals, having fetched a total of 12 golds in the four Deaf Olympic Games respectively in 1989 (New Zealand), 1993 (Bulgaria), 1997 (Denmark) and in the 2001 Deaf Games in Italy.
Rajjev did India proud when he was selected as the ‘Deaflympian of the Century’ by the Committee International des Sports des Sourds’ (CISS), also known as International Deaflympic Committee. Laurels are not new to the genial athlete, who’s been at the helm of the Indian badminton scene for over a decade, winning prestigious events individually, as well as helping the country reach greater heights. He is the only deaf player to have won the Indian National Championship twice – in 1992 and ’93 respectively.
“He is dedicated, always focused on the court and has shown tremendous sportsman’s spirit time and again,” said Brigadier S R Bagga, Rajeev’s father, in an interview with Nagraj Gollapudi of Rediff.com. “Many times, against senior players during national level games, when Rajeev was on the verge of winning matches, and the chair umpire gave a wrong line call, which actually was in Rajeev’s favour, he didn’t get upset, but accepted the umpire’s decision, only to bounce back and win the match,” he added.
“It gives me great pride to be the sportsman of the century for the Deaf. From the messages being received, I am sure other impaired persons are indeed inspired and sharing the pride for the country. I have no doubt that we will have more participation in the game. I want to dedicate this award to late Shri S.K Sinha, who was the live wire in the All-India Sports Council for the Deaf, and was responsible for inclusion of badminton in the sports for the deaf…,” Rajeev told Rediff.