Khelo India Para Games: Athletes, powerlifters led the charge for southern states
Tamil Nadu finished third in the medal tally and Kerala's cerebral palsy football team was one of the highlights of the inaugural Games in Delhi from Dec 10-17
The southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala earned medals at regular intervals to end their campaigns at the Khelo India Para Games 2023 on a positive note. The sporting extravaganza, which was hosted at three venues across seven days in New Delhi, saw Tamil Nadu (third in the overall standings) seal 42 medals (20 gold, 8 silver, 14 bronze), Karnataka win 30 medals (7 gold, 10 silver, 13 bronze) and Kerala secure 9 medals (1 gold, 3 silver, 5 bronze). Haryana finished on top with 105 medals while Uttar Pradesh were second best with 62.
Among the top stars from Tamil Nadu was Rajesh, who won the 200m gold medal in the T64 category and finished fourth in the long jump event, jumping a length of 4.49 metres. With a more-than-impressive timing of 12.88 seconds, the real-life 'Blade Runner' takes his inspiration from 2016 Rio Paralympics gold medallist Mariyappan Thangavelu, who won the T42 category high jump gold medal. Rajesh has been using prosthetic legs since the age of 10 after an infection caused by a poison spread following a syringe needle break led to amputation. But he has not let his injury affect his determination, as was displayed by his stellar performance in the Khelo India Para Games.
In the Powerlifting category, Kasturi Rajmani secured the Gold medal with an impressive 100kg lift in the elite 67kg category. Having returned after representing India at the Para Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, she finished way ahead of the likes of Parul Gohil of Gujarat (64 kg) and Punjab’s Sumandeep (57 kg).
Karnataka's charge at the Khelo India Para Games was led by their veteran powerlifter Sakina Khatun, who performed as per the expectations and secured the gold in the 50 Kg category of her event. She lifted 96 kgs to claim the yellow medal as her own, adding to the many laurels to her name, including the 2014 Commonwealth Games Bronze medal in the 61 kg category after lifting a total of 88.2 kgs, and silver at the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta in the 50 kg category with a total lift of 84 kgs. Sakina also participated in the Tokyo Paralympics 2020 where she finished 5th by lifting 93kgs.
For Kerala, their Gold medal came from the feet of their Cerebral Palsy Football team. The side defeated their local rivals Tamil Nadu 7-0. This comes after the team secured the titles at the national Cerebral Palsy Athletics Championship in 2022 and 2023 respectively.
The hard work of the team also saw the captain Sijo George, from Thiruvananthapuram, finish as the leading goal-scorer with a striking 29 goals to his name. Meanwhile, Muhammed Ajnas, a native of Mananthavady in Wayanad, also made a significant impact by netting 24 goals.