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Defying all odds, Thangavelu wins gold; Bhati bags bronze in men’s high jump

Thangavelu made history by becoming the first Indian high-jumper to win a gold at the Paralympics, with a leap of 1.89 metres. Bhati jumped his personal best of 1.86 metres to finish third. While initially at the first spot, India’s other medal prospect Sharad Kumar finished at number six.

USA’s Sam Grewe, who was at the head of the table for a while, bagged the silver medal. The Sports Ministry had earlier announced that Indian gold medallists from the Paralympic Games will be awarded Rs 75 lakh, the silver medallists will get Rs 50 lakh while Rs 30 lakh will be given to the 
bronze medallists.

Thangavelu was only five years old when his right knee was crushed in a bus accident. His journey from the day that left him permanently disabled to becoming only the third Indian paralympian to win a gold medal, has been nothing less than inspiring. 

Even today, when Mariyappan has helped India jump within the top 30 places in the medals tally, the family continues to be involved in a legal tussle against the state-owned transport corporation.

That Mariyappan has come this far owes a lot to his mother and coach. After his father abandoned the family, he and his mother Saroja had to endure a tough life financially. Saroja has been offering domestic help for years and her livelihood banks on selling vegetables. Yet, she ensured that Mariyappan’s initial love towards sports — he used to play volleyball earlier — developed into something special.

Following Mariyappan’s medal-winning performance, the family, living in the Periyavadagampatti village in Salem district of Tamil Nadu, celebrated by bursting crackers and distributing sweets. “I sincerely thank each and everyone who is supporting my boy,” said Saroja, the mother of four children who earns Rs 75 to Rs 100 on a day, after Mariyappan’s super show.  

His feat has been lauded by President Pranab Mukherjee, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and former Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra along with a host of others.

“Hearty congratulations to Mariyappan Thangavelu for winning gold and Varun Singh Bhati for winning bronze #Paralympics,” Banerjee tweeted on Saturday. Tamil Nadu’s district sports officer, Periya Aruppan, congratulated Mariyappan and Satyanarayana over the phone and assured all help. Tamil Nadu government announced a cash reward of Rs 2 crore for Mariyappan. 

The TN Chief Minister had this to say regarding the performance: “I was delighted to learn that Mariyappan has won Gold Medal in Paralympics currently being held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.” 
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