"Had a total budget of ₹4000, set aside ₹2500 for coaching" - Nishad Kumar recounts valiant struggle, hopes to make it to Paris Paralympics   

Day 4 - Para Athletics World Championships Paris 2023
Nishad Kumar is all set to take part in the Paris Paralympics

Nishad Kumar, who recently won a silver medal at the 2024 World Para Athletics Championships, dared to dream of making it to the Tokyo Paralympics despite financial struggles. The high jumper from Himachal Pradesh not only qualified for the Toyko Paralympics but also made India proud by winning a silver medal in the T47 category.

Nishad Kumar told Sportskeeda during an exclusive interaction that he was grateful to the coaches who allowed him to train despite his limited financial means while molding him into the champion he now is.

Nishad, whose hand had to be amputated at the age of seven following an accident in his farm continued to be an active athlete despite the disability.

"I used to take part in track and field events and also took part in games like kabaddi and kho-kho. With time, I became more interested in athletics – high jump, long jump, triple jump and running. I began performing well in high jump and won medals as well," said Nishad as he turned the clock back.
"I took part in the Nationals representing Himachal Pradesh in my Plus 1 and Plus 2 class and I was really motivated by the fact that I was competing with able-bodied people in the regular event being a Para athlete," he added with pride.

Nishad Kumar, who was unaware of the Paralympics until 2016, subsequently came to know of the event and began to set his sights on preparing for the quadrennial competition.

He decided to move to Panchkula armed with as much ration as he reckoned would be needed for the length of a coaching stint accompanied by his mother and a couple of other relatives.

"When the 2016 Paralympics happened in Rio, I was not aware that there was such a competition taking place as we did not have a television set at home. When I took part in the Nationals in 2017, I was told that Para events are held at the Olympic-level as well and are known as Paralympics," Nishad Kumar explained.
"I wanted to get coached professionally but I did not know if I could afford coaches of such a high calibre. I didn’t know how much fees the coaches would charge or how I could manage to live in Panchkula," said Nishad as he paused to reflect on the smaller details.
"We stocked up all the ration we could along with a kerosene stove and other belongings and moved to Panchkula accompanied by my mother and couple of other relatives," the athlete from Himachal Pradesh revealed. "We kept a lot of our belongings in my aunt’s place in Chandigarh including blankets, a kerosene stove, and a huge stock of groceries."

The 24-year-old fondly recalled his first encounter with the coaches in Panchkula and how they broke into a smile when he shared his Paralympic dreams with them.

"When I first met the coaches they asked me why I wanted to pursue training in high jump and whether it was to obtain a job. I explained to them that I had seen the exploits of the Indian athletes in the Rio Paralympics and wished to take part in the same events in Tokyo," Nishad stated. "At the time, the coaches looked at each other and could not help smiling."

A hesitant Nishad then asked the coaches how much they would charge but was pleasantly taken aback to learn that the coaching would be conducted free of cost.

"Me and my family had made out a budget which was a total of Rs 4000 out of which we had estimated the fees of the coaches to be Rs 2500. I had made up my mind to refuse the coaching offer in case the coaches demanded a higher fee as I could not afford it. The food budget was Rs 1000 and I had set Rs 800 aside to pay as rent for a place to stay in," he disclosed.
"The coaches informed me that the coaching was free as it was a government-run institute. I was flabbergasted as my eyes surveyed the huge stadium and the idea that the coaching would be free began to sink in" he divulged in an emotional tone.

The gratitude rang through loud and clear as Nishad Kumar struggled to find the appropriate words to thank his mentors who did the groundwork ahead of his Tokyo Paralympic journey.

"The coaches told me that they would provide for my boarding as well. My mother was in tears as she was unable to express her gratitude," Nishad Kumar said. "I gave it everything I had with regard to my training in order to achieve my dreams."
"I would like to thank my coaches in Panchkula Sector 3, Naseem Sir (Naseem Ahmed) and Vikram Sir (Vikram Chaudhary)," he declared.

"The realization struck me that I had indeed achieved something of substance" - Nishad Kumar recounts grand welcome following success in Tokyo

Nishad at the World Para Athletics Championships in Kobe
Nishad at the World Para Athletics Championships in Kobe

Nishad Kumar chased his dreams with aplomb at the Tokyo Paralympics, where he won a silver in the men's high jump T47 category.

His tone transformed into one of delight as he described the welcome he received as soon as he crossed the Punjab-Himachal Pradesh border.

Humble as ever despite his many achievements, Nishad Kumar described how the celebratory atmosphere and the massive crowds made him realize the true magnitude of his feat.

"As I reached the Himachal border while travelling from Chandigarh I saw a huge crowd waiting to welcome me. I was quite stunned as I never expected such a huge number of people to actually wait on the road to welcome me and share my joy," he stated with an air of reminiscence.
"It was then that the realization struck me that I had indeed achieved something of substance. In my village as well, there was an atmosphere of celebration since the people there were overjoyed. For me, and those from my village, it was nothing short of a miracle," said Nishad Kumar.

Paris beckons and Nishad is all set to make the journey for the 2024 Paralympics thanks to his stellar performance in the World Para Athletics World Championship in Kobe, Japan.

Nishad Kumar was on song in Kobe clearing 1.99 metres which was also a season-best mark for the athlete who is forever in search of newer milestones.

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