Mariyappan Thangavelu: 10 things you need to know about India's Paralympic Games gold medalist
Overcoming obstacles and impairment, Mariyappan Thangavelu leapt to glory by clinching the gold medal in the men’s T42 high jump finals in Rio de Janeiro. Cruising over the 1.89-meter mark, the 21-year old high jumper became the first medalist of India in this edition of the Paralympic Games.
Here are a few things you need to know about the gold-medalist:
- Born in the Periavadamgatti village, 50 km away from Salem, his mother sells vegetable for a living. A few years back, she took a loan of Rs. 3 lacs for his medical treatment which has not been repaid till date.
- While growing up he showed promise in volleyball and played the sport in school despite his condition. It was Mariyappan's Physical Education instructor who honed his skills in high jump.
- When he was five, his right knee was crushed after his right leg came under the wheels on his way to school. That left him with a permanent disability.
- In his first competitive event against able-bodied athletes aged 14, he surprised everybody and came second.
- His coach Satyanarayana spotted him at the National Para-Athletics Championship when he was just 18. After rigorous training in Bengaluru, he became the World Number 1 in 2015, his first year of senior-level competition.
- The T42 class has athletes with impairment in lower limb affected by limb deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement.
- Winning is not new to Mariyappan Thangavelu. The Tamil Nadu athlete bagged a gold medal at the IPC Tunisia Grand Prix when he jumped his PB of 1.78m which was enough for him to book a berth at theParalympics. The 'A' qualification standard is 1.60m.
- In the Rio Paralympics finals, he fetched the gold finishing with a jump of 1.89m compared to Sam Grewe’s and Varun Bhati’s jump of 1.86m.
- This is the third gold by an Indian in the history of Paralympic Games after swimmer Murlikant Petkar in 1972 and javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia in 2004.
Mariyappan Thangavelu has certainly placed Tamil Nadu on the map with this rare feat and helped India jump within the top 30 places in the medal’s tally. Here’s a video of his medal-winning jump: