Throughout the history of the Indian Paralympic Games, the medal count was 12 before the Tokyo 2021 campaign started. At least Indian athletes felt they would get closer to it, but in one edition, they won more medals than in all history of the country. India returned with 19 medals out of a total of 19 athletes at Paralympics in Rio.
India had its most successful Olympic and Paralympics in history at the end of Tokyo 2021.
This is how we have traveled through the years since the inception of the Paralympic games.
Now let’s take a look at our winners and the sacrifices they have made to reach the finishing line with flying colors.
AVANI LEKHARA-Gold Medal– Women’s 10 m Air Rifle Standing Event SH1 Category; Bronze Medal –Women’s 50m Rifle Position SH1
It was indeed a proud moment for us Indians when 19 year old Avani Lekhara won the gold medal in women’s 10 m air rifle Standing event in the SH 1 category and a bronze medal in women’s 50m rifle 3 position SH1.
Avani Lekhara suffered a spinal cord injury due to a car accident in the year 2012 and became paralysed below the waist. Avani shot a 621.7 in qualification after a rough start in Tokyo on Monday, but rebounded to finish seventh after the qualification round and qualify for the final. She led from the start in the final and won gold against China’s Zhang C and Ukraine’s I Shchetnik in the medal series.
Avani began training at the Jagatpura Shooting Range in 2016 with coach Chandra Shekhar, who focused her on 50m rifle events rather than 10m air rifle competitions. She won a silver medal with a junior world record at the WSPS World Cup in Al Ain in 2017 and a bronze at the WSPS World Cup in Bangkok the same year, in addition to earning crowns in the National Para Shooting Championship. The coach spent some time to work on Avani’s skills, but he discovered that her mental toughness was her greatest asset.
Sumit Antil–Gold Medal Men’s Javelin Throw F64
It was a not new thing when Sumit Antil won the F64 Men’s javelin throw gold at the Paralympics Games in Tokyo as he is already the World No. 1 and the record holder in F64.
Antil was born into a middle-class household, and his father served in the Air Force as a JWO officer until his death in 2004. Before an awful motorcycle accident ruined his life, he was training to be a wrestler. He got in an accident on his way back from tuition on January 5, 2015. His father was transferred to Army Hospital because he was in the Air Force, and doctors had to amputate his leg below the knee. He was transferred to the Artificial Limb Center in Pune after a 53-day recuperation period. He abandoned his desire of being a wrestler after receiving a prosthetic leg, but continued to do regular workouts.
A para-athlete from his village (Rajkumar) told him about the Para Games in July 2017, and it changed his life forever. It was difficult for him to cope with that much exercise at first since he had a lot of discomfort in his stump, and his liner (inside component of the prosthetic leg) was sometimes filled with blood due to high heat. But, with the help of his family and friends, he never gave up, and his main goal was to get better every day.
Mariyappan Thangavelu– Silver Medal Men’s High Jump T42
India’s medal tally in the Paralympics is led by defending champion Mariyappan Thangavelu, who won silver in the men’s high jump T42 event. On Tuesday, he reached an all-time high of ten, thanks to a continuously outstanding track and field performance.
In his third effort, Mariyappan jumped 1.86m, while American gold medalist Sam Grewe cleared 1.88m. Kumar finished in third place with a time of 1.83.
The Tamil Nadu athlete’s right leg was crushed under a bus when he was only five years old, leaving him permanently disabled.
Mariyappan was raised by a single mother after his father abandoned the family. His mother worked as a labourer before becoming a vegetable seller, and he grew up in extreme poverty.
Sharad Kumar–Bronze Medal Men’s High Jump T42
Sharad Kumar of Muzaffarpur made history on Tuesday when he earned a bronze medal in the F42 category of men’s high jump at the Tokyo Para Games, becoming Bihar’s first-ever Paralympic medalist.
Sharad was paralysed in his left leg at the age of two after consuming bogus polio treatment during a local eradication drive. Sharad attended St. Paul’s School in Darjeeling, where he began high jumping in Class 7. He set school and district records while competing against able-bodied athletes. He continued his education in Delhi, where he completed his Plus Two at Modern School and graduated from Kirori Mal College with a degree in Political Science. Jawaharlal Nehru University awarded him a postgraduate degree in politics with a specialisation in international relations.
Bhavina Patel–Silver Medal- Women’s Singles Table Tennis Class 4 Category
Bhavina Patel of Gujurat came out with flying colors when she won the silver medal in women’s singles table tennis Class 4 category. She was diagnosed with polio as a 12 month old and had to depend on her family members for practically everything in her life.
Bhavina Patel, who uses a wheelchair to play table tennis, has won numerous gold and silver medals at national and international events. Bhavina Patel became World No. 2 after winning the Silver Medal for India in the Individual Category at the PTT Thailand Table Tennis Championships in 2011. At the Asian Para Table Tennis Championships in Beijing in October 2013, Bhavina Patel won silver in the women’s singles Class 4 event.
Nishad Kumar–Silver Medal- Men’s High Jump T47
Nishad Kumar of India equaled his personal best, which was also an Asian record, with a 2.06m jump to win silver in the men’s T47 high jump event at the Tokyo Paralympics.
Nishad grew up observing his father support the family by doing masonry labour. Nishad was six years old when he put his right hand into the fodder-cutting machine at home while assisting his mother. His hand had to be amputated when he was transported to a hospital in nearby Hoshiarpur, Punjab.
While Nishad won a silver medal in the high jump in the sub-junior category in the 2013 National School Games in Patiala, he did not compete in the para division until 2017. Naseem Ahmad, coach of Olympic javelin throw champion Neeraj Chopra, and Vikram Chaudhary welcomed the athlete to Panchkula to train. In the same year, he won silver in the high jump with a leap of 1.83m at the National Para Athletics Championships in Panchkula. Nishad won the World Para Grand Prix Championship in Dubai in 2019 with a jump of 1.92m, followed by a bronze medal in the World Para Championships in Dubai the following year with a jump of 1.99m.
Two years later, Nishad decided to pursue athletics at the Saraswati Vidya Mandir in Katohar Khurd, where he would participate in the 200m and 400m, as well as the high jump.
In the medal round in Tokyo, Nishad leapt 2.02m on his first attempt before hitting 2.06m on his third attempt. Only Townsend, with a jump of 2.15m, beat it, with Wise and Nishad tying on 2.06m.
Devendra Jhajharia–Silver Medal Men’s Javelin Throw F46
With his silver medal in the men’s javelin throw F46 class, Devendra Jhajharia became India’s most decorated paralympian. It was his third Paralympic gold medal, following his victories in the 2004 Athens Games and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Devendra is India’s finest para-athlete, with a wealth of field event expertise. The 40-year-old was born in the Churu area of Rajasthan, and his accomplishments may now be openly recognised across the country.
Devendra Jhajharia was born into a farming family in Rajasthan’s Churu area. From the beginning, he used to play with his buddies – but only as a hobby. He accidently touched a 11000 volt electric wire when he was 8 or 9 years old. He had to amputate his left hand right away due to the severity of the accident. Little did he know that the one above had different plans for him.
Devendra received the Arjuna Award in 2004. He received the Padma Shri award in 2012. He is the country’s first Paralympian to be awarded the Padma Shri.
Yogesh Kathuniya–Silver Medal Men’s Discus Throw F56
Yogesh Kathuniya won the silver medal with a best throw of 44.58m in the men’s discus throw F56 class. Yogesh was suffering from paralysis since the age of seven and it was only due to his mother’s constant efforts and the physiotherapy treatment that resulted in Yogesh making a slight recovery.
Yogesh finished fourth in the Asian Para Games in 2018, his first time competing in the T-56 category, but it was a bronze medal at the World Para Athletics Championship in 2019 that convinced Yogesh’s coach, Naval Singh, that the child might medal in Tokyo.
Singhraj Adhana– Bronze Medal Men’s 10m Air Pistol Shooting SH1
Singhraj Adhana won India’s second shooting medal at the Paralympics with bronze in the men’s 10m air pistol SH1 class and also a silver medal in the finals. Due to an overreaction to a fever injection, Singhraj Adhana was diagnosed with lower limbs at the age of one, resulting in his impairment. But it didn’t stop him from embarking on his trip, which began in 2017 when he was 35 years old. When he used to take his sons swimming, he got the idea for a sport. As a result of this, he chose to take up swimming as a sport. However, his coach advised him to go shooting. He laboured day and night to pursue this game from then on, and it was not easy.
Praveen Kumar– Silver Medal Men’s High Jump T64
Praveen Kumar won India’s eighth athletics medal – and fourth high jump medal – at the Tokyo Paralympics with silver in the men’s high jump T64 class.
Praveen Kumar’s disability is congenital which affects the bones and connect his hip to his left leg. Kumar had earlier won a silver medal junior para world championship in 2019 which was his debut year. He is currently ranked world no. 3 in T44 classification. After learning about para sports while competing in the high jump event for able-bodied athletes as a child, he has always trained under national coach Satyapal Singh.
Harvinder Singh–Bronze Medal- Men’s Individual Recurve
Harvinder Singh earned the bronze medal in men’s individual recurve – open archery at Tokyo 2020, cementing his place in history. Singh was born into a middle-class farming family and contracted dengue fever at the age of one and a half. His parents took him to a local physician, who gave him an injection. However, it had the opposite effect, and Singh’s leg stopped performing properly for no apparent reason. After Jakarta 2018, Singh became the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal in para archery at a major competition.
Manish Narwal–Gold Medal Men’s 50m Pistol SH1
Indian shooter Manish Narwal won the gold medal in men’s 50m pistol SH1 at the Tokyo Paralympics with a solid display at the Asaka Shooting Range. Manish Narwal was born with a congenital defect in his right hand and he is still unable to raise it even while accepting the medal. However, the 19-year-old shooter’s left arm was sufficient to lift the pistol and win a gold medal in Tokyo 2020, adding a Paralympic record to his world-record final score.
Pramod Bhagat– Gold Medal Men’s singles badminton SL3 category
Pramod Bhagat became the first ever champion in the men’s singles badminton in the SL3 category. Bhagat has overcome several obstacles in his life as a result of polio as a child, and now has a ‘golden’ moment in his career.
Manoj Sarkar–Bronze Medal Men’s Singles Badminton SL3 Category
India also secured the bronze medal in men’s singles badminton SL3 category courtesy Manoj Sarkar – incidentally also the only player to take a game off champion Pramod Bhagat at Tokyo. Manoj is a victim of polio, which has affected his right leg. Sarkar began playing badminton at the age of five, but it was his desire to beat his older brothers that drove him to pursue the sport professionally. He competed in inter-school competitions against able-bodied players until 11th grade, when he began competing in para-badminton.
Suhas Yathiraj–Silver Medal Men’s Singles Badminton SL4 event
Suhas Yathiraj’s brilliant campaign at the Tokyo Paralympics men’s singles badminton SL4 event ended in him winning the silver medal. In a 62-minute summit clash, the 38-year-old Noida district magistrate, who has an injury to one of his ankles, put on a show before narrowly losing 21-15 17-21 15-21 to two-time world champion Mazur. As a result Suhas Yathiraj, who is the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar (Noida) became the first IAS officer to win a medal at the Paralympics.
Krishna Nagar–Gold Medal Men’s Singles SH6 badminton
India’s Krishna Nagar wrapped up India’s campaign at the Tokyo Paralympics with a gold medal in men’s singles SH6 Badminton. Despite having a medical condition that stunted his growth, the para-badminton star has emerged a star in the Tokyo Paralympics 2020 with his golden win.
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
– Christopher Reeve