Deepthi Jeevanji smashes world record at World Para Championships - Hindustan Times

Deepthi Jeevanji smashes world record at World Para Championships

ByAvishek Roy
May 20, 2024 11:09 PM IST

Deepthi won the 400m sprint (T20) gold in Kobe and also qualified for the Paris Paralympics

Deepthi Jeevanji would never complain despite exhaustive workouts. That's when athletics coach Nagpuri Ramesh realised that there was something wrong.

With Deepthi's rise, things transformed for her family too.
With Deepthi's rise, things transformed for her family too.

"She would not express anything. It can't be that she would not feel the pain after training so hard but she was not able to express it. My other trainees would be tired, they would grimace. Deepthi would be quiet. It was not normal," says Ramesh, who has coached Dutee Chand.

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Ramesh took Deepthi to the National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in Secunderabad in 2016 and found that her intelligence level was very low. She was intellectually impaired. Deepthi then started competing in para sport and has never looked back.

On Monday, she blazed to 400m sprint (T20) gold at the World Para Athletics Championships in Kobe with a world record timing of 55.07s. It also helped her qualify for the Paris Paralympics. Deepthi became the first Indian to win gold in track in world para championships.

When Ramesh first saw Deepthi, he was impressed by her athletic talent and asked her parents to send her to Hyderabad for training. The parents were daily wage workers and struggled to make ends meet. Sending their daughter to train in a sports discipline was not something they had thought about. The family hails from village Kalleda in Telangana, 150km from Hyderabad.

"We have a SAI hostel in Hyderabad and I asked her parents to drop her there and that we will train her. The parents were very poor and said they didn't have money. I then told them to put her into the bus and we will take care of the rest," says Ramesh.

It was during training that Ramesh found out that she was slow to receive instructions and spoke to her parents. "The parents said that she was like that since birth. Once she fell from a building but wasn't able to speak out," says Ramesh.

Ramesh has a long association with chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand who told him to introduce her to para sport. Gopichand also provided financial support through his foundation.

"We needed an international license for her and Gopichand came on board to fund her trips. We went to Morocco and Australia and got her international classification."

At the Para Asian Games in Hangzhou, Deepthi won gold with an Asian record time of 56.69 seconds. Training with able-bodied athletes made her stronger and she was able to push her limits.

"She has great reserves and that's her strength as well. We are careful not to tell so many technical things, or else she will get confused. She is like a small child," says Ramesh.

With Deepthi's rise, things transformed for her family too. Her parents, who were once subjected to taunts by the neighbours, are now as proud as one can be.

"Her parents were crying after the Asian Games success. They said everyday they would hear people talk about her in the village that a mad girl like her will not get married. After Hangzhou, the family had a stream of high profile politicians and officers coming to their house to congratulate. 'Our life has changed, sir,' they said.'"

From the cash awards Deepthi received, the parents were able to buy back a small piece of land which they had to sell a few years ago and now they are doing farming. And now, she has gone one step further. Paris awaits.

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