Less than a year after ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius made a memorable, if not all-conquering appearance at the London Olympics, sports lovers will once again get an opportunity to hail a physically challenged athlete participating with normal runners. Come Sunday, Pune-based Army Captain Avnish Bajpai will make his Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon debut in the half marathon category with the help of a prosthetic left leg.
“I am glad that the Indian Army gave me permission to participate in the marathon. This is a crucial test for me. If I do well, there are chances that the Army will grant me a blade limb,” 25-year-old Bajpai, who is currently serving in the 19th Dogra Regiment told MiD DAY yesterday. Here’s his story: “I was injured in a grenade blast during field-firing in Hoshiarpur near Jalandhar in March, 2011. The grenade exploded just 20 metres away from me. I started bleeding profusely and doctors were not sure if I would survive, but I did.
“Even after 16 operations, there are some splinters in my leg that need to be removed. I will be operated at the Command Hospital in Pune on January 24 after the Mumbai Marathon.” Bajpai had no choice but to adjust with an artificial limb. “Being in the Army has made me tough. It wasn’t easy to adjust to a prosthetic limb. The artificial limb is for walking, not running,” he said. Next on his agenda was to get back to running, which he always enjoyed. And once he achieved that, he harboured dreams of making it to the marathon.
“I have been training hard at the Sports Medicine Centre in Ghorpadi, Pune for the last three months. My aim is to complete the half marathon in 2 hours, 30 minutes, but as I sweat a lot while running, I might lose some time cleaning the perspiration off my leg and wearing my artificial limb again. Even if I complete the run in 2 hours, 40 minutes, I will be more than satisfied,” he said.
Despite being an army man, Bajpai is hurt that Pakistani players are not being allowed to participate in sporting events in India. “Sports and politics should be kept separate,” he emphasised. “It is wrong for political parties not to allow Pakistani players in tournaments hosted in the country. It is the duty of a soldier posted at the border to save his nation, and both Indian and Pakistani soldiers are doing that,” said Bajpai, who aims to motivate war-disabled army personnel to take up sport and win laurels for the country at the Paralympics.
The number of operations performed to remove splinters from his leg