Meet Ranjith Kumar - First para-athlete to win a Commonwealth Games medal for India
We take a look at athlete Ranjith Kumar’s journey from being a para-athlete to a Commonwealth Games bronze medalist.
Apart from being a successful athlete for his country, Ranjith Kumar Jayaseelan has been an ardent pillar of support for his fellow para-athletes. The discus thrower was part of the Indian track-and-field circuit for almost two decades as an athlete, after which he took up coaching and honing the skills of those after him.
Other than this numerous awards and laurels in para-sports, he is best known for his history-making bronze win at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. The third-place finish in the seated discus throw with a 29.88m attempt at the Melbourne Games made him the first para-athlete to win a medal for India at the Commonwealth Games.
Ranjith, however, feels the bronze medal in Melbourne is not the biggest achievement of his career.
"The Dhyan Chand Award is, undoubtedly, one of the proudest moments of my career. While I have won many medals for the country, but to be recognized by the government for the work I have put in to train the next generation of para-athletes is a huge honour," Kumar was quoted as saying by the Times of India in 2020.
Life wasn't always kind to the inspiration that is Ranjith Kumar. After enduring a tough childhood, he found solace in sports, like many before and after him. Once he found his calling, he made it a point to devote his life to world of sports. Even after hanging up his boots, he was a messiah for the voiceless and responsible for countless talents coming up in the national and international athletics circuits.
Getting his due recognition as a national icon also took some persuasion by the man himself. The former national athlete was rejected the opportunity of receiving the coveted 'Dhyan Chand' award a staggering three times, despite getting the required recommendations from the Paralympic Committee of India. Finally, the long-due award was conferred upon Kumar back in 2020, which was a win for him as well as all those who look up to the athlete-turned-coach.
Tamil Nadu has recently become a hub for a lot of para-athletes who have emerged as sporting icons from there, Mariyappan Thangavelu being an example. Despite the widespread interest shown by those interested, the government seem to fall short when it comes to financial and overall assistance to these aspiring athletes.
Ranjith Kumar was one such coach who was vocal about the dearth of proper aid given to the athletes and medal winners after the state emerged with 10 medals at the 20th National Para Athletic Championship, which was held in Bhubaneshwar in April 2022.
Hence we see that even after doing his bit in getting the medals for India, Kumar continues to champion the cause of many more who wish to represent the country at the highest sporting level, an aspiration which pushed Ranjith Kumar Jayaseelan to reach where he is today.