At the recently-concluded 2013 World Dwarf Games in the United States, India secured nine gold medals. Five of these were won by one man — 36-year-old Joby Mathew from Kerala. Nevertheless, when Mathew returned from Michigan, he did not get an Olympian’s reception.
There were no congratulatory calls from the Centre or the home state, no back-patting or announcement of cash awards and no offer for a biopic either. It was not as if Mathew’s achievement was being downplayed. In fact, it was worse. It was as if his gold haul at the largest sporting event organised exclusively for athletes with dwarfism, had not registered at all with anyone in India.
“Why such a short-shrift? With five gold medals I reached Kochi on Aug 12. Isn’t that something big?” asks Mathew who won medals in shot put, javelin, discus throw and single as well as double badminton.
But the man who suffers from stunted growth of legs since birth answers his own question. “Our leaders always complain about medal-drought. But we have to change our attitude towards sports,” he says.
An employee of the BPCL (Kochi) Mathew has been a world arms wrestling champion twice — in 2008 at Leon in Spain he became the world wrestling champion in the normal category and in the same year he won world championship in the disabled category also.
Mathew’s wife and four-year-old son are also equally upset with the indifferent attitude of authorities.
Despite the short-shrift he has set his eyes high. “I want to scale Mount Everest. I think I can do it in five years. Next month I will start training for it.”