After Thangavelu Mariyappan’s gold and Varun Singh Bhati’s bronze in the high jump T-42 event, India is expecting two more medals from the Paralympics in Rio. Mariyappan became India’s third ever Paralympic gold medalist after Murlikant Petkar in 50m freestyle swimming at the 1972 Games in Germany and Devendra Jhajharia in javelin throw F44/46 category at Athens 2004.
Chandrashekar J, secretary general of the Paralympic Committee of India is confident that this would be one of India’s most successful Paralympics. Speaking to HT on Sunday night from Rio, he said, “We are extremely happy with how the boys have performed so far. Now we are targeting two more medals — another gold and a silver or bronze — both from the javelin event scheduled for September 13. Sundar Singh Gurjar has a chance to win gold while Jhajharia looks set for a medal.”
Earlier this year, Gurjar threw the javelin to a distance of 68.42 metres to break the world record of 62.5 metres set by Jhajharia. “I’m sure Sundar will break the world record again in Rio,” Chandrashekar added.
Speaking of Mariyappan’s triumph, Chandrasekhar said the gold had been a given because the Indian para-athletes had prepared well for the event, the training started a year back with the focus on peaking in Rio.
“We had targeted gold for him since then…we knew we had it in our pockets if Mariyappan did what was expected of him. Since he was No.1 in the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) world rankings, we were confident he would perform, doing justice to his top billing,” he said.
Incidentally, the top three positions in men’s high jump T-42 are occupied by Indians; after Mariyappan, Bhati is ranked second while Sharad Kumar is third. USA’s Sam Grewe, who won silver in the event in Rio, is ranked fifth in the world.
Chandrasekhar explained that a year before the Games, Mariyappan shifted base to Bengaluru, where he trained at the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium and the SAI Stadium. “He trained every single day under his coach, Satyanarayana. In training, jumping, he used to constantly jump 1.85 metres. He even targeted 1.9 metres,” added Chandrasekhar.
There was one niggling issue though. “We were worried about how he would perform under pressure on such a big stage…this is his first Paralympics. It was the case with the others as well. After coming to Rio, we have been with our para-athletes each day, asking them to stay cool and not be swayed by crowds,” said Chandrasekhar.
Tamil Nadu chief minister, J Jayalalithaa, has announced a cash reward of Rs 2 crore for Mariyappan and congratulatory calls have kept his phone busy. “His family has struggled a lot to make ends meet. I hope this opens more doors and opportunities for him,” said Chandrasekhar.
Box: Men’s javelin F-46 final: September 13, Tuesday, 6.03 pm Rio time, 2.33 am on September 14 in India