Ekta Bhyan has qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics in the club throw event. She's an Asian Para Games and IPC Grand Prix gold medalist. Ekta Bhyan has also participated in several World Para Athletics Championship events and is currently working her way to Paralympic glory. She was awarded the Differently-abled Athlete of the Year award by ESPN in 2018.
In this exclusive interview, Ekta Bhyan shares with us her journey and talks about why every citizen needs to understand the different needs of differently-abled athletes.
The excerpts -
Q: Can you please introduce yourself to us?
My name is Ekta Bhyan. I am an Indian para-athlete. I have won six international and national medals in club and discus throw. Currently, I also work as an employment officer with the Haryana Government.
Q: How did you get involved in sports?
After I qualified for my Haryana Civil Services exam, few interviews were published about me in the newspapers. One of them was circulated on social media and reached my current coach, Mr. Amit Saroha, Arjun Awardee. He contacted me and asked if I was willing to join para sports. I thought of giving it a try to experience a new field.
Q: Do you recall your early memories from training?
Initially, I found training quite challenging because of severe quadriplegic disability. Also, along with my job, it was difficult to take out the time for practice. However, as time progressed, I improved my fitness and performance, and then I started enjoying it.
Q: What was it like to compete professionally? How did you get into the competitive mode?
It is a matter of pride to represent our country at international sports events. Holding the Tricolour and winning medals are the greatest honours one can have.
When I won my first medal at the National Championship, it was a huge morale-booster. It generated a lot of self-confidence in me, and then there was no looking back. I started working hard on my training and technique. Then, in July 2016, I participated in my first international event, at the Grand Prix in Berlin. I won a silver medal there. At that moment, I started setting my goal for the Paralympics.
Q: Can you share your experience of playing your first professional event?
It was the 2016 Grand Prix in Berlin. I represented our country in club and discus throw. In the club throw, I won a silver medal, while in the discus throw, I finished at the 4th place. This was a proud moment for me. I met many para-athletes from different countries, and learned a lot. After this event, I completely focused on my next one, which was the 2017 World championship.
Q: You won several international medals afterwards, including the gold at the Asian Para Games in 2018. Can you recount that victory?
The Asian Para Games, Jakarta, 2018 was my first major international event. I did my training at the SAI, Sonipat before this event. I believed in my hard work and that paid off. I became the first quadriplegic female para-athlete to win a gold medal in club throw. I received an overwhelming response after this victory.
Q: You qualified for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. What do you look forward to at the 2021 Games?
I won a quota for the Tokyo Paralympics through the World Championship, Dubai, 2019. I am the only female para-athlete to get a quota for the country in Para Athletics for the upcoming Paralympics.
Due to the pandemic, both the Olympics and the Paralympics were postponed for a year, and will now be held in August-September, 2021. This was quite unexpected, but I'm taking it on a positive note. We have got one more year for preparation. I am hoping to win the gold medal in club throw for our country at the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics.
Q: You are also supported by the GoSports Foundation and the Haryana Government. What do you have to say about the support you got from them?
GoSports is the first organisation to support para-athletes through their Para Champions Programme. This is truly a change-maker step. They support athletes in every way, so that they can improve their performances. We are all thankful to GoSports for their consistent support.
I am working with the Department of Employment, Haryana. They have always encouraged and supported me at every step of my sports journey. I am grateful to all my colleagues and seniors for this encouragement towards my sporting career.
Q: What do you hope to achieve in the near future?
Currently, I am preparing for the Tokyo Paralympics. I have a target of winning the gold in Paralympics for my nation.
Q: Finally, any thoughts that you would like to share with the audience?
We need to develop a more diverse and inclusive approach by breaking infrastructural barriers (public buildings, transportation and information access) and mental barriers for persons with disabilities to bring them into the mainstream. And, every citizen can contribute in this direction by understanding the different needs of different disabilities. Together we can make a better world for all.Published 08 Dec 2020, 14:17 IST