India has always had a rich history of para-athletes who have brought the nation accolades on the world stage. From our Summer Paralympic debut in 1968 to the Athens 2004 games where Devendra Jhajharia won gold for javelin throw and Rajinder Singh won bronze for powerlifting, our athletes have had considerable success despite having minimal infrastructural support and national recognition. Here we take a look at the most recent achievements of our para-athletes in various international events in the last couple of years.
The BWF Para-Badminton Championship was held in Basel between 20 and 25 August 2019 and saw the Indian contingent win 12 medals (3 gold, 4 silver and 5 bronze). World number one Pramod Bhagat won gold in the Men’s Singles (SL3) event before doubling his gold tally in the Men’s Doubles (SL3-SL4) alongside Manoj Sarkar. Manasi Girishchandra Joshi was the other gold medallist in the Women’s Singles (SL3) event as she overcame compatriot Parul Parmar in the final.
This was followed by 2 more gold medals for Sundar Singh Gurjar and Sandeep Chaudhary, Javelin Throwers in F46 and F64 events respectively, at the 2019 World Para-Athletics Championships held in Dubai in the month of November.
Silver and Bronze Medallists
The Dubai Championships also saw Sharad Kumar and Sumit Antil win silver in the T63 Men’s High Jump and F64 Men’s Javelin Throw categories respectively. There was more to be happy about though, as there were five bronze medals on offer for Vinay Kumar Lal (T44) in Men’s 400m, Yogesh Kathuniya (F56) in Men’s Discus Throw, Nishad Kumar(T47) and Mariyappan Thangavelu (T42) in Men’s High Jump and lastly, Ajeet Singh (F46) in Men’s Javelin Throw.
With 9 medals and 13 confirmed spots for the Tokyo Paralympics, the Indian contingent put on a stellar display in the championships. While Sandeep and Sumit bettered their own world records on their way to a gold and silver medal respectively, there were mixed feelings for Discus Thrower Vinod Kumar, High Jumper Praveen Kumar and Javelin Thrower Rinku Hooda who missed out on a bronze medal narrowly but managed to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics. Additionally, Club Thrower Ekta Bhayan was the solo female athlete to qualify for a berth in Tokyo with a 4th placed finish.
Coming back to the Para-Badminton Championships in Basel, Manoj Sarkar, a 2018 Arjuna Awardee, also bagged a bronze medal in the Men’s Singles (SL3) event to add to his Doubles gold. Apart from the previously mentioned Parul Parmar who won silver in the Women’s Singles (SL3), there were other medallists in the Men’s Singles (SL4) category in the form of second seed Tarun, who unfortunately had to retire in the final against top seed Lucas Mazur, and Pune boy Sukant Kadam who won bronze. Tarun also partnered Nitesh Kumar in the Men’s Doubles (SL3-SL4) event, ending up with the silver medal while Krishna Nagar and Raja Magotra also bagged silver medals in the Men’s Doubles (SH6) category. Krishna then went on to add a bronze to his tally in the Men’s Singles (SH6). The final two bronze medals were won by Umesh Vikram Kumar for the Men’s Doubles (SL3-SL4) event alongside Thailand’s Chawarat Kitichokwattana and the Indian pair of Raj Kumar and Rakesh Pandey, who featured in the Men’s Doubles (SU5) category.
Lastly, the 2019 World Para-Shooting Championships in Sydney was kind of a mixed bag for India with our athletes having to settle for 3 bronze medals. While the Mixed 50m Pistol SH1 event saw the team of Manish Narwal, Singhraj Adhana and Akash bag the bronze medal, Manish also managed individual honours in the form of two bronze medals in the Men’s 10m Air Pistol SH1 and Mixed 50m Pistol SH1 categories. The 18-year-old who has a congenital impairment to his right hand, is now looking forward to competing in the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021 for which he has already secured a ticket by virtue of his impressive performances in France, Al Ain and Sydney.
The aforementioned performances have ensured 22 quotas for Indian para-athletes at the Tokyo Paralympics which is already an improvement over their 2016 performance. India’s unprecedented outing in recent World Championships however has come at a time when the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) has been derecognised by the Sports Ministry after allegations of corruption and mismanagement. This once again points towards the lack of a proper structure as well as an acute deficiency of professional guidance and world-class mentoring for these athletes, something that has been a long-term issue. There is much to look forward to ahead of next year’s showpiece event though, as similar issues with the PCI had previously failed to stunt India’s medal haul in Rio 2016 and should our star athletes perform at their best, a highest ever medal tally might just be a realistic ambition.