Two days after India won gold and bronze at the Rio Paralympics, Deepa Malik completed the set by landing silver in the women’s shot put on Monday. India’s T Mariyappan and Vinay Bhati had won the high jump medals.
And the mother of two daughters scripted history by becoming the country’s first woman to win a medal at the Paralympics, heaving to a distance of 4.61m in the shot put F-53 event.
For 45-year-old army officer’s wife, who has been on a wheelchair since 2000, it’s a victory over disability. “I am happy today. If I can achieve this, anybody can do it. So, whatever may be the circumstance in life, never lose hope and have faith in yourself,” Deepa said. “It’s the biggest day of my life. Today I was able to make the country proud at the world’s highest sporting arena. Years of hard work has finally paid dividends.”
Deepa even had to surmount legal hurdle before heading to Rio after another para-athlete Jyoti Kamal filed a case challenging her selection. She contended that she should be sent, having won the quota for the country due to her top-five world ranking.
But in the trials, Deepa did better and was selected. Later, Jyoti also got a place in the squad after Russia’s ban created fresh slots.
Deepa owes her success to her never-say-die attitude.
Malik, who lives in Sonepat, had three major spinal injuries that required 153 stitches. After the third injury, it became clear she will never walk again. Deepa had cancer in her spinal cord, which required surgery. But in 2000, there was relapse and the doctor told her that after surgery she won’t be able to walk again. “At the start it was end of the life for me, but then I found a way to live life and sports is one of my discoveries to live life like a queen,” she said in an interview after winning a medal at the 2010 Asian Games.
Before taking up athletics, she was into motor sports and loved driving cars. She is also the country’ first physically challenged to get a rally licence from the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) and become a navigator and driver in the toughest car rallies of the country --- Raid-de-Himalaya 2009 and Desert Storm 2010.
“I am permanently on a wheelchair and cannot even take a step. But I always find myself running with lightening pace in dreams and only because of that am I adding more and more medals at the international arena.”
Acknowledging her sporting accomplishments, Deepa was conferred the Arjuna award in 2012.