Know more about your Indian Paralympians
It takes only a desultory glance around the country to see how indifferently we treat our disabled people and their needs. However, India has produced a number of true homegrown disabled legends who have achieved greatness despite all odds against them, whether it’s conquering Mt. Everest with a prosthetic limb or becoming a quadriplegic Paralympian.
Of course, these para-athletes don’t get nearly as much attention as the able-bodied ones but they have never failed to inspire and encourage the world.
We have interviewed five Rio Paralympians, who have overcome seemingly insurmountable disabilities to reach a level of greatness in their profession that will inspire you to the core; let us see what they have to share with us:
1) Devendra Jhajharia
One of the mightiest names when it comes to Indian Paralympics, Devendra Jhajharia, came in contact with an electric cable of 11,000 volts, when he was just 8 years old, which burnt most of his body and his left arm had to be amputated by the doctors. However, he went on to become one of the best para-athletes of India.
“I live and breathe sports every day. In my native language we call it a ‘Junoon’. If I miss training one day, I start feeling restless and cannot wait to get back onto the field. The biggest challenge was maintaining fitness and avoiding injuries. I have been competing internationally for over 14 years now and this is my second Paralympic Games. It took a lot of effort and dedication to get to where I am today.”
Devendra, who hails from Rajasthan’s Churu district, became the second Indian to win a gold medal at the Paralympics in the javelin throw event at the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens and also set a world record with a throw of 62.15m eclipsing the old one of 59.77m.
He also became the first differently-abled Indian to win a gold medal at the IPC Athletics World Championships in the year 2013. His success in Athens saw him honoured with the Arjuna Award in 2004 and he became the first Paralympian to be honoured with the prestigious Padmashree Award in the year 2012.
“Sport has given me everything. I remember when I returned to my village, having lost an arm after my accident, my friends there would not let me play in their team anymore; they considered me a weakness. Today I have a Paralympic Games Gold, medals at World Championships and Asian Games, Arjuna Award and a Padmashree, all of that because of a drive to prove that differently-abled people are not a weakness.
“Today people respect and recognise me through sports and it has given me a platform to act as a source of motivation for other differently-abled individuals.”
Like many other para-athletes in the country, Devendra too had to overcome a lot of hurdles for funds and sponsorships. He got rewarded for his achievements mostly after the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. However, things have drastically changed now and he has a lot of support from the Government and an NGO (GoSports Foundation).
“The Ministry had funded my preparations in India and Ukraine through their Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS). In addition, the GoSports Foundation, an NGO supporting sports persons from Olympic and Paralympics disciplines, are also supporting me through their Para Champions Programme. They funded the purchase of my Javelins, which I used to train with for Rio and will also be using at the Paralympic Games,” he said in an exclusive interview with Scroll.
Jhajharia is representing India at the Rio Paralympics along with five other para-javelin throwers. Four of the five throwers being at the Top 10 in the official IPC World Rankings, the team is fairly confident of doing their best this time. Devendra was one of the strongest medal contenders for India at Rio and he proved it by winning the gold medal in the men’s javelin throw F46 event, breaking his own record. Devendra is now the only Indian to win two individual Olympics/Paralympic gold medals
“My preparations were quite good and I am confident of doing my best there. I trained in Ukraine in the build up to the Paralympics and benefited tremendously from the scientific training programme which I followed.”
His message for our readers,“Mehnat karo apne lakshya ki taraf; safalta aate rahegi.” (Work hard towards your goals; success will follow).