Millennium Post

Paralympians Make India Proud

It wasn’t late when India was basking in the glory of Rio Olympics in the form of P V Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar, when Indian Paralympians made the nation proud once again. Mariyappan Thangavelu, Devendra Jhajharia, Deepa Malik and Varun Singh Bhati were unknown faces in the world of sports and Paralympic sports, but it is their hard work and perseverance which brought them to the limelight. The gold medals of Thangavelu and Jhajharia have bettered India’s performance in any edition of Paralympics. The question which stands in the queue is why were they not known? Is it because of the media? Or the less exposure of sports that India offers? Or is it the year of Olympics which has made people realise the existence of the rich sporting fraternity India has.

The Paralympics, unlike any other sports, is not covered the way it should be. The media could be, yes, partly blamed for it while the other part could lie with the exposure which differently/ specially abled sportsperson do not receive. The mere thought of these Paralympians fading into oblivion no sooner than the Paralympics fever ends is just as sad.

Probably this year, the amount of coverage that Olympics received was one of the best that India has seen and that surely paves way for a lot of change in the world of sports but what about the Paralympics? Irrespective of its grandeur and exposure, all kinds of spots must be televised and promoted for its eventual growth. How unknown is the actual concept of Paralympics is event in the fact that people are even unaware of the categories and qualification criteria of various events.

Mariyappan’s right leg was crushed by a bus when he was just five years old. Losing a leg at such a tender age could have definitely put him down  completely but bravely, he never gave up his love for sports and continued to hit back at his inadequacies with his zeal to prosper. His coach, Satyanarayana, took him as a student in 2015 after he saw and recognised his talent at the Indian national para-athletic championships. However, he trained under coach Elamparithi for the Paralympics.

Thangavelu qualified for the 2016 Rio Paralympics by clearing a distance of 1.78m in the men’s high jump T42 event at the IPC Grand Prix in Tunisia. Not only is he a champion in his sport, Thangavelu has a degree in Bachelor in Business Administration (BBA) but is yet to get a proper job.

In the Rio Paralympics, he leaped 1.89m at the T-42 event to clinch his first gold and also India’s first Paralympic medal this year.

Devendra Jhajharia became India’s second gold medallist in the Rio Paralympics when he won his second gold medal by bettering his own world record of 62.19m made in Athens Paralympics in 2004. He threw a massive 62.19m to win at the event. He won his first gold medal in 2004 Athens.

Jhajharia is currently ranked third in the world. He has also won a gold at 2013 International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Athletics World Championships in Lyon. The 36-year-old athlete is a 2004 Arjuna Award winner and the first Paralympian athlete to win the Padma Shri in 2012.

Jhajharia was India’s flag bearer at 2016 Rio Paralympics. He is a Maharana Pratap Puraskar Award winner, a member of the Paralympics committee of Rajasthan and an employee with the Railways.

Deepa Malik was not a name well known despite the fact that she’s a winner of 47 gold, five silver and two bronze medals. Malik started her sports career at the age of 36 and just nine years later, at the age of 45, she became a Paralympic silver medallist in the T-53 shot put event. Malik is paralysed below the waist after suffered from a spinal tumour in 1999 and underwent three surgeries and 183 stitches. This left her confining her to a wheelchair. Her paraplegic state didn’t halt her as she holds an official IPC Asian Record in Javelin F-53 Category.

She is the first paraplegic to get a license for official rallies from the Federation of Motor Sports Club of India and has participated in the Raid de Himalaya in 2009 and the Desert Storm in 2010. A 2012 Arjuna Award winner, Malik is an accomplished entrepreneur, swimmer, biker and has made it to the Limca Book of Records four times.

Bhati was diagnosed with polio at a very young age but today, he is a Paralympics bronze medallist. A student of BSc Maths (Hons), Bhati shot to fame by registering the ‘A’ qualification mark for the 2012 Paralympics in London with a performance of 1.60m.

The 21-year-old from Uttar Pradesh finished fifth at the 2014 Asian Para Games in Incheon, (South Korea) and won a gold medal at the 2014 China Open Athletics Championship, the same year. Strengthening his reputation as India’s leading para high jumper, Varun recorded a jump of 1.82m at the 2016 IPC Athletics Asia-Oceania Championship where he won a gold medal as well as set a new Asian record.

It’s refreshing and good to see even the little amount of coverage that the Paralympics that seen this time. Because surely if this article is being read, it is because of the fact that Paralympics has been witnessed.

It is yet to be seen though how much these paralympians are appreciated and rewarded for their achievements. Will the paralympians be recognised as athletes or turn into just memories? While the Olympians will surely get future assistance and support to better themselves on the world stage, will the paralympians get enough support and exposure?

'There is pressure of performance on match day. I had trained a lot for this day, my coach kept telling me that I could breach the world record. That wasn’t my priority, winning the gold was - Devendra Jhajharia

"I still cannot believe it. To become the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic medal is an honour and it is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. I hope my journey and the medal can serve as an inspiration for differently abled Indian women - Deepa Malik
'I am happy that my performance and medal has brought laurels to the country. I want this to motivate other special children to participate in the games like we did  - Varun Singh Bhati
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