He is responsible for India’s first ever medal at the Paralympics. High Jumper Girisha Hosanagara Nagarajegowda’s silver medal feat at the London Paralympics has brought a fresh hope for the ‘neglected’ category of ‘para’ athletes who often beg for recognition.
On a day that Girisha celebrates his 25th birthday, receiving the news from the union ministry that he will be conferred with the Padma shri award is nothing short of a huge birthday present, expressed an elated Girisha. “The recognition has not just brought a new happiness to my family but it comes as a ray of hope to thousand such differently-abled athletes,” he told Sportskeeda.com.
The 25-year-old Girisha’s way to success, like many others, has been full of obstacles – the biggest being his disability. Today, he is portrayed as a hero to the nation but before the medal, Girsha fought a lonely battle. It was only his undying spirit to achieve that always kept him at his confident best.
It is this belief and zest for life that made him win a medal say many of his team-mates who have known him since the start of his career back in 2006.
Born with a deformed left leg to a humble farmer in a small village called Arakalgud in Hosanagar Taluk, Hassan, Girisha – the eldest son in the family, almost immediately became an unwanted child. Why would a family struggling to make ends meet want to keep a son with a deformity? Isn’t a son supposed to earn a living for the family of five? But how can our son born with disability help us improve our livelihood? What good can he be? Why did god do this to us? These were some difficult questions that haunted his family when Girisha was born.
Though a daunting task of bringing up her disabled son lay in front of her, it was Girisha’s mother Jayamma who kept her calm and gave the family an assurance that her son will not be a bane to them. She promised Girisha’s father Nagarajegowda that she will make their son an able person in the society.
“Girisha never for once used to feel that he had any sort of a deformity. His mother was very brave and extremely confident that her son would be like any other child in the village. He used to play around and jump around like any other child in the village. It was only when we used to mention that he had some sort of a problem in his leg, it would occur to him that he is unlike the rest of us,” says Harish, Girsha’s first cousin, recalling their childhood days.
Girisha did his schooling in Hosanagar and subsequently joined a school in Bannur for higher primary education. It was here that he started taking part in athletic events with the able-bodied. He used to surprise many by winning in a few events. Some participants even protested that a disabled person can’t take part in events meant for ‘normal’ students but a supportive Physical Education teacher allowed him to pursue his passion. After finishing his pre-university in Kodagu district, Girisha learnt of a certain Paralympic Committee based in Bangalore that helped ‘differently abled’ athletes pursue a career in sports.
It was then that a young Girisha set out to realise his dreams of making it big. Today, after his mega success at the London Para Games where he scaled over a height of 1.74 metres using scissors technique to win the silver, Girisha has put his small village on the world map. “Actually, the villagers are in a state of disbelief. And why not! They always thought what good can a guy who can’t even walk straight can do. But now that they are seeing TV channels queuing up to interview Girisha’s family, they are all extremely proud and happy. It seems as though overnight he has become a hero for the people here,” expressed Harish, an employee with the Mavinahalli post office.
On his success story, a zesty Girisha says: “Being physically challenged is not my misfortune, rather I feel gifted. If I hadn’t been like this, I would not have been a paralympian in the first place. Athletics is my life and I love being on the field. Back in my earlier days, I definitely felt bad that we never got the adequate fame or honour what other athletes in India do. We paralympians had sort of gotten used to it but I never allowed this ignorance to affect my performance. I am just extremely glad and humbled that my medal, my effort has been recognized by the government of India and I am very happy to be receiving the award,” he concluded.