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Googling to Glory: Tokyo Paralympic medallist Praveen wins gold at 'able-bodied' meet Junior U-20 Fed Cup

Tokyo Paralympics silver medallist long jump athlete Praveen Kumar created history by winning gold in the able-bodied event at Junior U-20 Fed Cup, clearing 2.06m.

Silver medallist Praveen Kumar at Tokyo Paralympics (Source: Reuters)

Silver medallist Praveen Kumar at Tokyo Paralympics (Source: Reuters)



Updated: 4 Jun 2022 4:08 PM GMT

If the mind is willing to scale the peak, the body is ready to push the envelope. Praveen Kumar always wanted to turn adversity into an opportunity which he did in 2021 by becoming the youngest Indian to win a Paralympic high jump medal in Tokyo.

It was a heady enough achievement but in his mind, Praveen would have decided that "Yeh Dil Mange More". With an impairment, which is congenital and affects the bones that connect his hip to his left leg, Praveen on Saturday trumped a group of able-bodied high jumpers to win gold at the Federation Cup U-20 event in Gujarat's Nadiad district. It was always a case of mind over body and no one knew it more than Praveen.

The 19-year-old Praveen, cleared 2.06 m to win the gold in a stunning show. He hails from Noida but was representing Delhi in the Junior National Championships here.

How surfing google changed Praveen's life

"I was playing volleyball initially in school, but then slowly came to know of para-athletics and took up high jump. I came to know about Paralympics and how to take part in it after searching on google," Kumar, who is doing a BA course at Motilal Nehru College in Delhi, had said after winning silver in Tokyo Paralympics.

Praveen first took part in a district-level competition where he met Ashok Saini who gave him the phone number of Satya Pal in 2018. Initially, even his fellow students and teachers of his school wondered how he will do well in his sport but they later began supporting him.

Hailing from a poor family of farmers, who reside in a remote village near Jewar in Noida, the teenager had clinched the silver medal in the men's high jump T64/T44 event at the Tokyo Paralympics in September last year with a new Asian record jump of 2.07m. He was back then competing in his first Paralympics. The congenital impairment notwithstanding, Kumar was such a sports freak in his school days that he googled on the internet to find out how to take up para-athletics and take part in the Paralympics.

"As far as I can remember, this gold won by Praveen is the first medal ever won by a para-athlete while competing among able-bodied athletes," Paralympic Committee of India Secretary General Gursharan Singh told PTI.

"He is very young and talented. He is a great prospect for gold in the 2024 Paris Paralympics. The gold he won among able-bodied athletes should boost his confidence even more in his ultimate dream of winning Paralympic gold in Paris."

He trains under national coach Satyapal Singh after coming to know of para-sports while competing in the high jump event for able-bodied athletes as a child. It was Satyapal was instrumental in convincing him to participate in the championships among able-bodied athletes. Satyapal initially had some reservations about his short stature (1.65m) but found that Praveen has very strong muscles on his right leg.

The Tokyo Paralympics was Praveen's first major medal since taking up the sport in 2019. He is a bright prospect for now postponed Asian Para Games gold and he is aiming to break the T44 world record also. Praveen belongs to the T-44 disability classification which is meant for athletes with a leg deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement in the legs.

He was, however, eligible to compete in the T-64 classification, which is for athletes with a leg amputation, competing with prosthetics in a standing position. Praveen had earlier won a silver medal at the Junior Para World Championship in 2019, his debut year.

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