India’s Suhas L. Yathiraj went down fighting to France’s World No 1 Lucas Mazur in three well-fought games in the final of the Men’s Singles SL4 class and had to be satisfied with the silver medal at the Tokyo Paralympic Games here on Sunday.
The 38-year-old Noida district magistrate, who has an impairment in one of his ankles, produced an entertaining performance before narrowly going down to two-time world champion Mazur in a 62-minute summit clash.
Yathiraj stunned the Frenchman, the three-time World Champion, in the first game and had handy leads in the second and third games but Mazur is too experienced and too skilled and fought back from a game down to win 15-21, 21-17, 21-15 in just over an hour to win the gold medal.
Yathiraj, who is the district magistrate of Gautham Buddha Nagar (NOIDA) in Uttar Pradesh and had practiced mostly in the nights after work to prepare for the Paralympics, played aggressively and at great pace to unsettle the seasoned French star.
But Mazur, who was trailing 12-15 at one time in the second game, took control of the proceedings and mixed brilliant overhead smashes and deceptive placements with deft touches at the net to win nine of the next 11 points to bag the second game 21-17.
Yathiraj held a slight advantage in the third and deciding game and was leading at the midway stage. But Mazur fought back again and leveled scores at 13-13 before winning the game, match, and gold medal at 21.15.
Suhas had earlier outwitted Indonesia’s Fredy Setiawan 21-9 21-15 in the semifinal. In the SL4 bronze medal play-off, second seed Tarun Dhillon went down 17-21, 11-21 to Setiawan in 32 minutes to miss out on a medal at the Yoyogi National Stadium.
A computer engineer, Suhas went on to become an IAS officer and has been posted as a district magistrate of Noida since 2020, a role that saw him at the forefront of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
More medals are in store for India as Krishna Nagar also sailed into the men’s singles SH6 class final.