The story of Rajinder Singh Rahelu
Overcoming all odds...
Let me start this article by asking the readers to do an image search of Rajinder Singh Rahelu on Google, you will be amazed to see that there are actually very few quality images of this man in the search results. In fact, some of the top results are not even pictures of him.
It’s sad that in a nation like ours where majority of the people are obsessed with cricket, people like Rajinder do not get the recognition they deserve. Rajinder is a Paralympic powerlifter. He was born in a poor Dalit family who hails from Jalandhar and was the youngest child of his parents. His father was a bandmaster and his mother was a maid.
The 41 year old suffers from infantile paralysis. He contracted polio when he was just eight months old. Forty years later Rajinder won the silver medal in men’s para power lifting at Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. He lifted 185kg to score 180.5 points and take home the silver medal. He chose to pursue powerlifting thanks to the encouragement from his friend Surinder Rana who was also a powerlifter.
"My friend Surinder Singh Rana is a power lifter. One day without letting me know he made me lift 70 kgs. And then he said that if I can lift 70 kgs on the first day then with a little bit of hard work I am capable of qualifying for the Punjab games," Rajinder said.
Rahelu won his first-ever title in powerlifting in 1997 at the Punjab Open Meet. In August 1998, he won National Powerlifting Championship held in Hyderabad. His achievements didn’t stop there, he went on to win a bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens, where he competed in the 56 kg category. This was also India’s first ever medal in Paralympic powerlifting.
In 2006, Rajinder was awarded with one of India’s highest sporting awards – The Arjuna Award.
The 2004 Athens Olympic Gold medalist couldn’t repeat his heroic feat in 2008 Summer Paralympics at Beijing. He finished fifth out of a total 13 contenders in the final even after lifting a total load of 170 kg . In 2012, he narrowly missed out on a medal at the London Games.
Rahelu is married to Jaswinder Kaur with whom he has a 6 year old daughter RIddhima. The Commonwealth hero currently works with the Punjab Sports Department, where he trains specially abled-power lifters at an academy in Gohawar village near Goraya.
Rajinder Singh Rahelu’s life is the story of a man who didn’t let fate have the final word in his life. He faced all odds and overcame his challenges brilliantly to defeat his physical inability. Men like him are the real life super heroes. His path to success was not straight forward, nor was it easy. He had to cope with financial struggles along with his inability. He received an initial boost in his career by winning the bronze medal at Athens back in 2004, but was left disappointed by the results in 2008 and 2012 Paralympics. He didn’t let that result weigh him down and came back strongly and won the Silver Medal in Glasgow a few days back.
This man’s story should be narrated to every child in our nation so that they realize what they have and that they have to use their strengths to the maximum. It will be an eye opener to many who doubt themselves. When a man who was born in a poor family and suffers from paralysis can achieve so much in life, why can’t we?