Elation awaited the country after India managed to bag a third medal at the Paralympics going on in Rio. After a gold and a bronze, India’s Deepa Malik managed to register a performance worthy of a silver medal. Ranked seventh in the world before this competition, Deepa is perhaps the most well-known face of para-sports in the country with incomparable contributions across various spheres.
In Rio, she registered a personal best throw of 4.61 m in F53 Shotput. As a child, she was diagnosed with a tumor that inhibited all functions of her spinal cord. As things stand, she is currently unable to feel anything below the chest and is wheelchair bound. This has not lessened her courage and determination in any way as she remains an inspiration to many. Sponsored by the GoSports Foundation, Deepa is currently a member of the working committee designed by the HRD Ministry to formulate a cohesive plan on Sports Development and Physical Education in the country.
Here are a few things to know about India’s only female medalist at the Paralympics.
- In her words, Deepa was “born feisty”. A bully and a tomboy, the tumor detected at the age of 6, was contained as it was caught early on. Her recovery took three years but it was not without complications. In 1999, her tumor relapsed and surgery ensued, during which she was told that she would have to remain wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life. She was given seven days to celebrate what it feels like to have use of one’s feet. At present, she has over 200 stitches between her shoulder blades and no physical sensation below her chest.
- Her eldest daughter was hit by a biker when she was barely a year old. The accident caused a lot of internal bleeding in her brain as the child had to be admitted into Intensive Care for quite a few days. Her ventricles dilated leading to a complete paralysis of the left side of her body. After this, Deepa worked towards making her house completely wheelchair friendly and organizing support systems for other physically challenged people.
- She has the reputation of an entrepreneur. Outside the field of sports, she once started a catering service in the army quarters when her husband was summoned to war. Her take-out service was competent enough to feed nearly 250 people in one go. This was the first initiative of its kind by the wife of an army officer.
- Participating in para-sports was something unplanned for Deepa. A member of the Sports Authority of the country once watched her swimming as a part of a daily training exercise. As a result of this, she was invited by the Maharashtra government to represent the country in the FESPIC Games held in Kuala Lumpur in 2006. She won the Silver medal in S5 Backstroke Swimming that year.
- Deepa swam across the River Yamuna against the current for one kilometer in 2008. She has four Limca Adventure Records to her name, two out of which are for this remarkable feat.
- In March 2016, she won the Gold medal in Javelin at the IPC Oceania Asian Championship held in Dubai. Needless to say, shotput is not her only forte. In the same compettion, she also won a second medal- a Silver in Shotput.
- Apart from MotorSports, Javelin, Shotput and Swimming, Deepa has also won accolades in Discus throwing. She won the gold medal in F53 Discus at the Malaysian Open Athletics Championship held in April 2012. She bagged a Gold for Javelin at the same tournament which was, at that time, a new Asia record. For her achievements, she was felicitated by PT Usha and Milkha SIngh.
- She has participated in car rallies across two of the most dangerous routes in the country with the Himalayan MotorSports Association. She took part in the Himalayan race and the desert storm race, covering 1700kms in sub zero temperature withinin 8 days at 1800ft above sea level.
- She is the first physically challenged person to receive a rally license by the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India. (FMSCI). She drives a motor vehicle especially designed to accomodate her.
- She was the oldest ever recipient of the Arjuna award which she was awarded in 2012. Her age at the time was 42 years