Profile of the well-known Deaf Badminton champion and ‘Deaflympian of the Century’, Rajeev Bagga.
Rajeev was born on 6 April 1967 in India but is now a UK citizen. At 12 months old, he lost his hearing after a severe bout of meningitis.
Bagga, now 49, had a supportive and sports-loving family. As a kid he was into multiple sports – playing squash and carom apart from badminton. He says that though he played with both deaf and hearing badminton players and was sometimes bullied, he never got scared, though his parents were always worried about him.
Recruited by Hindustan Petroleum in Mumbai, at the tender age of 18 as a sports officer, it was a job that took him to various tournaments in India. He started his career in the hearing open category in squash, tennis and badminton, winning medals at the state (Maharashtra) level and national level.
It was only when he turned 18 in 1989 that he represented India at the World Deaf Games (that later went on to become the IOC’s Deaflympics) in Christchurch, New Zealand. He swept the men’s singles and doubles gold medals and put India on the top – a position that they would sustain for two decades. His debut at the Christchurch World Games opened up the avenue for deaf sports in India in a large way.
After beating Prakash Padukone at the Indian national championships, Bagga went on to reach the main stage of the 1990 All England Open Badminton Championships, defeating the Korean player Ahen Chang in the third round of qualification – the only deaf person to achieve this distinction. He won the national men’s singles title twice, in 1991 and 1992, as well as the men’s doubles in the 1990, he has been the captain of the Maharashtra badminton team during the 1990s, and has represented the Indian national team in BWF (Badminton World Federation) championships including the Commonwealth Games, Thomas Cup, All England Championships, Malaysian Open, Swedish, Swiss and Austrian Opens, Asian Badminton Championships. Overall he made 60 appearances in the 1980s and 1990s.
His record in Deaflympics is staggering – four gold for India at the 1993 Games in Bulgaria, three gold at the 1997 Games in Denmark, three more gold in 2001 in Italy and two gold in 2005 in Australia.
Experts of the game were astonished to watch a 42-year-old Bagga, now representing UK, playing his sixth consecutive Deaflympics in 2009 and later going down to a 20-year-old Russian player in a very close finals in Taipei. He continued to be the only deaf player in the 40+ Opens Veterans circuit who was a gold medal winner.
He was honoured as British Deaf Sports Personality of the Year in 2009/10
Bagga, who is now a certified badminton coach and lives in Coventry, coaches Great Britain as well as the Austrian national badminton teams.
Quote: “I had a tough time initially, but I remained positive, eager to move forward. I’m proud to be a deaf badminton champion and every time I won, I wanted to prove a point to my competitor that we are equal”
Next big Badminton tournaments:
McCoig Cup England v Scotland and Yorkshire Masters Gold at York in March 2017
All England Senior Championships march-April 2017 at Hatfield
World Senior Badminton championship in India. September 2017