Mariyappan Thangavelu clinched the silver medal with a season-best performance of 1.86m in the final of the t42 high jump in the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics. The 2016 Rio Paralympic champion settled for silver in Tokyo after three failed attempts to clear the 1.88m jump.
Mariyappan Thangavelu's story:
Thangavelu has not been physically impaired since birth. A truck pulverized his right leg at the age of five, leaving the growth in his leg stunted. More than his disability, it was the financial crunch in the household that was more heart wrenching. To make ends meet, he started working as a newspaper hawker to aid his mother's daily struggle as a vegetable vendor.
All these struggles were prior to the commencement of his athletics journey. Little did he know that he would clinch a gold medal for India at two consecutive Paralympic medals.
In fact, Mariyappan was never interested in athletics. He liked basketball and used to play it during his initial days. Later, Mariyappan was asked to take up the high jump by his coach, who gauged his athletic skills. And the rest is history.
Mariyappan Thangavelu's Paralympics glory and how it helped him
A win and prize money will always fetch a lot of respect for an athlete. But will it pay the bills for the rest of his life?
The same has been the case with Mariyappan. After his 2016 Paralympic glory, Mariyappan breathed a sigh of relief. He used his prize money and bought his mother a paddy field in order to ensure his family a stable life.
However, the prize money with which Mariyappan Thangavelu was running his household was not going to last forever. He was soon in desperate need of a steady job to support his family and requested his state government to help him in 2017.
Mariyappan has shown the world today that despite having numerous financial, physical and family issues, he can still earn a spot on the Paralympics podium.
A champion in the truest sense, he looked in supreme form today. His achievements over the years have been an attestation to his hardworking lifestyle. He has the hallmarks of a true champion.
Also read: 2021 Paralympics: Singhraj Adhana clinches bronze, while Manish finishes 7th in 10m Air Pistol SH1 final