Rio 2016: Para-athletes hope to cash in during upcoming Paralympics

Apr 08, 2016, 08:27 IST | Sundari Iyer

Rewarding the deserving was the name of the game at a Mumbai five-star hotel yesterday where facilities were extended to para-athletes to make a name for themselves.

Paralympic athletes Deepa Malik (extreme left), Niranjan Mukundan, Devendra Jhajharia, Suyash Jadhav and Amit Saroha at a media conference in a city hotel yesterday. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Paralympic athletes Deepa Malik (extreme left), Niranjan Mukundan, Devendra Jhajharia, Suyash Jadhav and Amit Saroha at a media conference in a city hotel yesterday. Pic/Suresh Karkera

A total of 15 emerging and elite para-athletes were selected to receive support from IndusInd Umang in association with GoSports Foundation.

Of the 15 para-athletes, two of them — Amit Kumar Saroha (club thrower) and Devendra Jhajharia (javelin) have already qualified for the Rio Paralympic Games to be held from September 7 to 18 while three para-athletes who were present at the event — Deepa Malik (shot put), Niranjan Mukundan (swimmer) and Suyash Jadhav (swimmer) – are training in the hope to qualify for the quadrennial event.

Despite losing his left hand at the age of eight when he touched a live electric cable of 11000 volts while climbing a tree in Rajasthan, Jhajharia took to sports in order to prove that he was not a no-hoper.

Jhajharia won the javelin gold at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens to become only the second gold medallist for the country at the Paralympics after para swimmer Murlikant Petkar (1972).

He hopes to repeat this feat in the Rio  Paralympic Games.

“When I won gold in 2004, I did it without much financial help. Now, with help from Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) and this initiative, I am confident of repeating my Athens performance in Rio. I want to kiss the gold medal again and see the tri-colour being hoisted on Rio soil,"the 35-year-old, who works as a coach at Sports Authority of India in Gandhinagar (Gujarat), told mid-day yesterday.

Mom’s the word
Talking about how his mother Jeevnidevi helped him overcome the disability, Jahjharia said, “People in my native place (Churu district in Rajasthan) used to taunt my parents and said ‘ab yeh ladka kya karega?’ (What will this boy do now?).
“It was my mother who stood by me and I owe it to her,"said Jhajharia who became the first paralympian to be honoured with the Padma Shri award in 2012.

Arjuna Awardee Saroha suffered a car accident at the age of 22. He became a quadriplegic (paralysis caused by illness or injury that results in partial or total loss of use of all four limbs and torso due to compression of the spinal cord).

Before his injury, the TOP scheme-supported athlete was a national level hockey player. Saroha, whose silver in men’s club throw F51 event (athletes having activity limitations in both lower and upper limbs) in the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha last year helped seal a berth for Rio.

However, Saroha stressed that differently-abled athletes need to stop looking for sympathy.

“If we want the mindset of people to change from calling us differently-abled instead of disabled, we ourselves need to stop asking for sympathy."

Deepa Malik

The 46-year-old mother of two has four mentions in the Limca Book of Records for success in various adventure sports. She will participate in the shot put 53 category (athletes having normal hand function, complete or limited trunk function, and no leg function) for Rio. She faced a spinal tumor attack in 1999 and is since confined to a wheelchair.

Suyash Jadhav
This 22-year-old para swimmer in the S7 category, (S1 to S10 is a category for physically impaired swimmers. 1 being the worst physical disability while 10 is the least) has already achieved Rio’s ‘A’ qualification mark of 33.92. The 11-year-old Suyash was electrocuted while attending a marriage ceremony. He didn’t give up, started swimming again. He hopes to represent India.

Niranjan Mukundan
This para swimmer is the reigning junior world champion. Though the 22-year-old hasn’t qualified for Rio, he is going to train in Thailand to achieve the mark. He was born with a physical deformity called spina bifida (incomplete development of the spinal cord, and clubbed feet). He won 10 medals (seven golds and three silvers) in the World Junior Games, Netherlands last year.

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