The 2018 Gold Coast Games will host the largest Para Sports program in the history of the Commonwealth Games. Gold Coast 2018, now popularly known as GC2018, will host approximately 300 para-athletes in 38 medals events across seven sports.
This year’s participation will see an increase of 45 percent compared to the previous edition that took place in 2014 in Glasgow. Moreover, there will be an equal number of men’s and women’s events across all sports. This step in accordance with GC2019’s commitment to equality and inclusion.
Para-Sports – Indian Para-Athletes Performance in the past
Athletics has not always been the stronghold of Indian sports, but there are always exceptions. One such exception is our para-athletes. The Indian para-athletes, notably, in the past decade, have consistently risen to the occasion to perform to the best of their abilities. Their performances over the course of previous four editions of the World Para Athletics Championship, a.k.a. the IPC Athletics World Championships, have been improved.
Here’s a look at their record:
At the 2011 New Zealand IPC Athletics World Championships, India stood 55th with just one silver. At the 2013 France Championships, the country only bagged only one medal and finished 36th in the medal tally. The Indian contingent finished 50th in Doha in 2013 as they won 2 silver medals.
2017, however, was a successful year for the para-athletes as they bagged a total of 5 medals and finished 34th in the medal tally. This has been their best performance thus far and there were a few names in that edition of the IPC Athletics Championships that brought glory to the country. The same athletes are also the country’s brightest medal prospects.
Let’s have a look at them.
Para-Sports – Javelin Thrower Devendra Jhajharia
Devendra Jhajharia is by far India’s most decorated para-athlete. The 36-year-old javelin thrower from Rajasthan is a two-time Paralympics gold medallist. He clinched gold in the 2004 Athens Games and the 2016 Rio Games. Both his Golds came in the F46 Javelin event. In addition to Paralympics, With Gold in 2013 and Silver 2015, Jhajharia has been India’s top performer in IPC World Championships as well.
For his exceptional record, he was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2017. In 2004, he was also awarded the Arjuna Award.
Setting records off the field is also his forte. In 2012, he became the first Paralympian to win the Padma Shri award. He credits his coach R.D. Singh for guiding him through his thick and thin and helping him soar new heights.
Devendra Jhajharia is currently being supported GoSports Foundation through the Para Champions Programme. He is a former Indian Railways employee and is currently working with the Sports Authority of India.
Para-Sports – Varun Bhati High Jump
Varun S. Bhati is a para high jumper from Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh. He was afflicted with Poliomyelitis at a very young age. His talent was recognized when he was studying at St. Joseph’s School. Since 2014, and just like Devendra Jhajharia, he has also been supported by GoSports Foundation. He participates in the T42 High Jump event for India.
His first major success came in the 2014 China Open Athletics Championship where he clinched the gold medal. A couple of years later in 2016, with a jump of 1.82m, he bagged Gold at the 2016 IPC Athletics Asia-Oceania Championships and in the process, set a new Asia Record.
However, he entered the spotlight in the true sense when he won the bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. He set his personal best in the Games by jumping 1.86m. Next year in 2017, he won Bronze in the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships by jumping 1.77m.
Bhati, who was initially coached by Satyanarayana, now trains at the Sports Authority of India in Bangalore.
Para-Sports – The Multi-talented Deepa Malik
Swimming, Shot Put, Javelin Throw and Motorcycling. Deepa Malik is a body full of talents. The 47-year-old is, however, best known for her outstanding performance at the 2016 Summer Paralympics where she became the first Indian woman to win a medal at the Special Olympics. She had clinched Silver in the F53 Shot put event. Recently this year in 2018, she also won the gold medal in F53/54 Javelin event at the Dubail Para Athletic Grand Prix.
One of her major achievements also comprises of her Silver in the 2011 Christchurch IPC World Championships. She bagged the medal in the F52-53 shot put event.
Mother of two adult daughters, wife of a veteran cavalier Colonel Bikram Singh and daughter of Colonel BK Nagpal, Malik has won accolades in various adventure sports as well. She once undertook an 8-day, 1700-km long drive in sub-zero temperatures. This feat also included an 18000 feet climb. She is also associated with HMA (Himalayan Motorsports Association).
In addition to her on-field endeavors, she is highly involved with national affairs off the field also. She is working with the Planning Commission HRD Division on behalf of the Sports Ministry.
Para-Sports – Sharad Kumar the Former World No 1
Sharad Kumar participates in the T42 High Jump event along with Varun S. Bhati for India. The 26-year-old is a former world number 1 from Patna who made his International debut at Asian Para Games in 2010. In 2014, he broke a 12-year Asian Games record by clinching the gold medal in the Asian Para Games.
Two years later in 2016, he represented Indian in the 2016 Paralympic Games. Despite finishing sixth in the event, he successfully regained his world no.1 position. The very next year in 2017 at the IPC World Championships, he won the silver medal.
Para-Sports – KreedOn Opines
Indian para-athletes have used their disabilities to the best of their capabilities. For any para-athlete, it is a matter of pride and honor to represent the country and use their disability to the best of its ability. Though most of the para-athletes are fighting great odds to reach where they are currently, it is high time the Sports Ministry starts treating the para-sports player with respect and dignity. With the recent reports suggesting poor arrangements at the 18th National Para Athletics Championship, the Paralympic Committee needs to pull up its socks.