The historic gold medal won by Mariyappan Thangavelu in the men’s high jump (T-42) event at the Rio Paralympics on Saturday has a Gurgaon connection.
Thangavelu’s talent was spotted and honed through the efforts of Arhan Bagati, a class 12 student of The Shri Ram School, Moulsari in Gurgaon’s DLF City Phase 3.
The Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) appointed Arhan, an athlete himself, as the ‘awareness and impact ambassador’ for promoting Paralympics after he developed a mobile app, InRio, loaded with medical information for the participating athletes, last year.
Sixteen-year-old Arhan, a Kashmiri Pandit, got in touch with the para-athlete from Tamil Nadu as part of his efforts to generate awareness about Paralympics. Arhan combined with Bangalore-based coach Satyanarayana for this purpose.
Varun Singh Bhati from Uttar Pradesh, who won the bronze at the event on Saturday, was also coached by Satyanarayana.
“It is a big day for all of us. I am sure people would now show interest in Paralympics,” Arhan, said.
Thangavelu, 21, won gold at Rio with a leap of 1.89 metres. His right limb was amputated after an accident. He lost his father when he was 10 years old. His mother raised him and his three siblings at Omalur - a remote hamlet in Salem district — by working at a brick kiln, and selling vegetables.
In may 2016, seeing the portential in Thangavelu, the then Union minister of youth affairs and sports Sarbananda Sonowal sanctioned Rs. 20 lakh to train him for the Rio event.