India plays various national and international sports. Among these what our fans always forget are the Paralympics and Deaflympics. Our physically disables sportpersons until now have graced various sporting meets, and among them the two most important are Paralympics and Deaflympics.
Let’s take a look at some of the India’s Paralympics and Deaflympics sportsperson who made the nation proud.
Virendra Singh is India’s finest athlete in the history of the Deaflympics. He gave India their only gold medal at the 74 kg freestyle wrestling event in the 2005 Deaflympics at Melbourne. He then won a bronze at the 2009 Deaflympics in Taipei.31-year-old Virender Singh, popularly known as Goonga Pehelwan, which is also the title of the documentary based on his life, has won six international medals and is an Arjuna Award recipient.
He continued his impressive run at the Deaflympics by winning the gold medal at the 2013 Deaflympics in Sofia. Virendra Singh’s most recent achievement has been winning his third gold at the Deaflympics this year at Samsun, Turkey. Besides his four Olympics medals, Virendra also has three medals at the World Championships. He won the silver and bronze medal at the 2008 and 2012 World championships respectively before finally clinching the gold medal at last year’s World Championships at Tehran.
Devendra Jhajharia had a tragic incident at the age of 8 when he touched a live wire cable while climbing a tree. Unfortunately, his left hand had to be amputated. However, this did not stop Jhajharia from competing in sports.
He represented India at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens at the javelin throw event. He set a new world record with a distance of 62.15 m and won the gold medal. However, this wasn’t it for Jhajharia as he returned to the Paralympics twelve years later at Rio.
This time, he won the gold again by bettering his own world record with a distance of 63.97 m.
Devendra Jhajhariya is the first Indian to have clinched two gold medals at the games, which are for athletes with physical or mental disabilities, after coming first in the men’s javelin throw finals.
Tamil Nadu’s Mariyappan Thangavelu did not have a very easy childhood. His father left his mother and his five siblings when he was very young. Then at the age of 5, he was run over by a drunk bus driver on his way to school. As a result, he suffered a permanent disability in his right leg.
During his school days, Mariyappan was a volleyball player but his school’s physical education instructor suggested him to take up high-jumping. He paid heed to the advice and this paid extremely rich dividends.
In his first competition at the age of 14, Mariyappan ended 2nd amongst a group which consisted of completely fit competitors. In March 2016, Mariyappan qualified for the Paralympic Games in Rio by clearing a distance of 1.78 m.
At the tournament, he jumped a height of 1.89 m to bag the gold medal in the high-jump T-42 event. This is 0.56 m less than the high-jump world record.
Greater Noida’s Varun Bhati was diagnosed with Poliomyelitis from a very tender age. However, this did not stop him from playing sports and representing the country in high-jump. He registered the “A” qualification mark during the 2012 Paralympics qualification. However, he could not make it to London due to limited slots available for India.
In the 2014 Asian Para Games in Incheon, (Korea), Varun was also part of the Indian team where he managed to come in 5th. Interestingly, in the same year he won a gold medal at the 2014 China Open Athletics Championship.
In 2015 he came in 5th again at the 2015 Para World Championship in Doha (Qatar), where he performed better than other established Indian para high jumpers such as HN Girisha and Sharad Kumar.
Bhati qualified for the 2016 Paralympics at Rio and jumped his personal best of 1.86 m to win the bronze medal.
When only a year old, Rajeev Bagga had a severe bout of meningitis and lost his hearing. He began to play squash and won the sub-juniors title in 1981. He switched to badminton where his eyesight would help him more than his hearing abilities.
He was the state champion for five years, representing Maharashtra. He became the national champion in 1991. Bagga reached the main tournament of the 1990 All England Badminton Championships, becoming the only deaf player to do so.
Bagga represented Britain during the Deaflympics and won the Men’s singles badminton tournament for 12 years in a row from 1989-2001. He was felicitated with the Arjuna Award in 1991.
Rohit Bhaker’s medal story is another highly inspiring one. Bhaker could not speak or hear but with steely determination and discipline, made a fine badminton player out of himself. At the 1997 Deaflympics in Copenhagen, Bhaker became the second youngest male deaflympian at 12 years and 260 days.
Bhaker did not put up much of a performance in the Singles and Doubles tournaments but won the gold in the Team event. He didn’t win any medals during the 2001 Deaflympics at Rome, ending 5th and 7th in the Singles and Team events respectively.
At the 2005 Deaflympics in Melbourne, Bhaker won two bronze medals in the Singles and Team events.
It was a hear-warming sight to see Indian Paralympic swimmer Prasanta Karmakar winning the bronze in the 50m freestyle in 27.48 seconds, finishing behind Australian swimmer Matthew John Cowdrey and Jay Simon Miller (England). Prasanta Karmakar started quickly off the blocks at the Dr.S.P.Mukherjee Swimming Stadium, Delhi, thus having an advantage over medal-favourite Australian Benjamin Austin, whom he eventually out-swum with some powerful strokes to grab third place.
His achievement created 2 records: Prasanta Karmakar is the very first Indian to win a medal in aquatics at the Commonwealth Games. He is also the first Indian ever to win a medal in aquatics at a major international competition since Khajan Singh, who bagged a silver medal at the 1986 Asian Games. Prasanta is currently ranked Asia No.3 in four events: 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 100m backstroke and 200m individual medley.
Born in Kolkata, West Bengal, at age 7 Prasanta had an unfortunate accident which left him bereft of his right hand. His favourite sport was swimming which he initially took up as a recreational past-time. At the 2006 Asian Games, he unexpectedly won a bronze medal. He considered it to be the most memorable achievement of his career as he had competed against the toughest swimmers in Asia. It was on winning the bronze medal that Prasanta decided to take up swimming seriously as a professional.
His potential was recognized in the 11th Standard, and from then onwards he underwent training with different coaches. However, he was very angry at the cavalier treatment of the West Bengal Government, who refused to give him any financial or other support and merely congratulated him for his win. It was then that he decided to shift base from West Bengal to Haryana. He later trained at Bengaluru. Eventaully Prasanta was to find his best mentor and coach: Nihar Ameen, the head coach at the K.C.Reddy Swimming Centre Bengaluru.
Under Ameen’s able guidance, Prasanta went from strength to strength, improving on this timings and winning accolades and medals. Just this year, at the IWAS Games in Bengaluru, Prasanta won 4 gold, 2 silver & 1 bronze medals. To date Prasanta has won 22 international medals!