Khelo India Para Games: Losing a leg was not a deterrent for 200m champion Rajesh
Rajesh, who trains at the Sports Authority of India (SAI), Gandhinagar in Gujarat bagged a gold medal in 200m
When the 200m final of the T64 category started at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Monday, it was being telecast live on a big screen at Annai Vailankanni College in Tambaram, Tamil Nadu, thousands of kilometers away from here because one of the blade runners of this college, Rajesh K was participating in the first-ever Khelo India Para Games.
The college administration wanted every child to see Rajesh performing because his story is that of immense courage.
Rajesh lit up the track of JLN Stadium with his performance and won the gold medal in 200 meters. After this, Rajesh also took part in long jump on Tuesday but he finished disappointingly in fifth place. But there is no place for words like disappointment or frustration in the personal life of Rajesh, who lost his leg at the age of just 6 months.
The personal life of Rajesh, who practices under the supervision of Nitin Choudhary at the Sai Center in Gandhinagar (Gujarat), is full of such incidents that would make anyone sigh, but he never considered himself an object of pity. Rajesh wants to register his name in history.
Rajesh said, “I want to earn a name like India's gold medal winning Paralympian Mariyappan Thangavelu. I want to be like German para long jump athlete Markus Rehm, who made the world record in the T64 long jump category. Disability never became an obstacle in my path. I never let it affect me and always thought like a normal person. I have never made myself an object of pity.”
When asked whether he was disabled by birth, Rajesh said, “No, I am not disabled by birth. I was born a normal child but due to an infection in my legs, I had to undergo treatment. While giving the injection, the needle broke in my leg and the poison spread due to this. Then, following the advice of my parents, the doctors amputated my leg to save my life,” recalled Rajesh of his agony.
Rajesh told that at the age of 10 months, he got his first artificial leg, with the help of which he started living his future life, but when he was in class seventh, his parents left him.
According to Rajesh, “Life seemed normal after getting an artificial leg but then my parents separated with mutual consent. We did not get anyone's support. My twin brother and I were forced to live with our grandfather and grandmother. My grandfather raised us by driving an auto.”
On how he got into running despite having artificial legs, 24-year-old Rajesh said, “I have been doing blade running for the last five or six years. I started my journey in 2018 but in the year 2016, I was inspired by watching Mariyappan Thangavelu winning the T42 category high jump gold medal on television at the Rio Paralympics and since then I had decided that I too want to become an Olympian.”
Rajesh further said, “One day a friend of mine called and said that your dream of playing for the country can be fulfilled. You meet Vijay, Tamil Nadu's first wheelchair player. When I met him at Nehru Stadium, he advised me to take up blade running. I started practicing in 2018 and played Nationals twice. I won the bronze medal in the 21st Para Nationals held in Pune in March 2023. After this, the Tamil Nadu government gave me a new blade, which costs Rs 7.50 lakh.”
Rajesh told that his aim is to participate in Paralympics and Para Asian Games. “I want to win medal for the country in Paralympic and Para Asian Games. Right now I am preparing for the Para Nationals to be held in Goa from 9th to 15th January. There is less cold there, so my performance will be better. After this I want to prepare for the Grand Prix to be held in Dubai in February 2024.”