Javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia, who won his second Paralympic gold medal, at the Rio Games, on Tuesday, has revealed that a “deal” with his six-year-old daughter propelled him to win a record second gold 12 years after his first.
Jiya, who would accompany Jhajharia to training in Rajasthan, struck a deal with her father that if she topped in the lower kindergarten exam, he would have to win a gold in Paralympics.
“She proudly phoned me to announce that ‘I’ve topped, now it’s your turn’, something that kept on echoing in my ear when I entered the field at the Olympic Stadium,” Jhajaria, the only Indian to win two gold medals in Paralympics, told PTI from Rio after winning the men’s F46 javelin throw .
“She would be the happiest person. I will wait for her to wake up and speak to her,” he said after breaking his own world record that he set in Athens in 2004.
Devendra, in fact, stayed awake the whole night and kept talking to his family and well wishers till 5am in Rio.
“Ab kya sona, ab hamein kuchh nahin hoga. Hum to Rashtriya Dhwaj ke saath celebration karenge (I won’t get sleep anymore. I will celebrate with the National Tricolour,” he said, thanking every Indian.
Devendra’s world record throw of 63.97 metres came in his third attempt as it bettered his own mark of 62.15m that he had produced for his maiden gold at the Athens Paralympics in 2004.
Until then, Murlikant Petkar was the only Indian with an individual gold in Paralympics, winning in the 50m freestyle swimming at the 1972 Paralympic Games. Shooter Abhinav Bindra is the only Indian to win an individual gold in the Olympics, winning in Beijing in 2008.
It was a long wait for the the 35-year-old, who did not feature in the previous two Paralympics with the event missing from the Games program.
Devendra falls under the F-46 classification, where ‘F’ denotes field events and the number 45-47 is for “upper limb(s) deficiency, impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement”.
To keep himself in shape and remain injury-free during this period, the Indian followed an intensive training program as he rarely visited home, a small village in the Churu district of Rajasthan. So much so that his two-year-old son Kavyan does not even recognise his father.
“He does not even know what a father is like. Only his mom tells him by showing my photo, that it’s papa. Hopefully I would be able to spend some time with them now.”
Before the Paralympics, he trained from April-July in Kuortane, Finland, where he became friends with Kenyan thrower Julius Yego, whom he calls one of his biggest motivators.
“He (Yego) would tell me his story of penury, of how he slept on a broken cot and how he learnt javelin throw by watching YouTube... It was quite an inspiration. If he can achieve after so much of hardships, why can’t I.
“We would train for about seven hours. He would tell me I would surely win a gold in Rio. He went on to win a silver. I will speak to him soon as he has been a strong force behind my success,” Devendra said.