"I never thought a javelin can cost 1.5 lakhs" — Paralympic gold medallist Sumit Antil
Tokyo Paralympics gold medallist and World Record holder Sumit Antil recalls how he stumbled across para sports and how amused he was to discover the price of a javelin.
Growing up in Sonepat, Haryana, Sumit Antil's passion leaned majorly towards being a wrestler for the major part of his life. Fanboying over 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist and legend in the parts of North India, Yogeshwar Dutt, Antil too wanted to be a grappler and play for his country someday. However, life had an entirely different plan, and come the winter of 2015, Antil then 26, faced with a bike accident that saw the future inevitably changing for him. His wrestling dreams were stashed away and soon Sumit was left at crossroads - torn in between his love for sports and the thought of perhaps having to sacrifice it all and following a different course in life.
The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics gold medallist who won with a throw of 68.55m, also won the 'Paralympic Athlete of the Year' award at the GoSports Foundation's Annual Sports Awards Night at an event in Mumbai, Maharashtra where he recalled how he stumbled across javelin and how that in turn, became a life-changing event. A chuckle on his face as he sat clad in a white suit ensemble with a statement necklace, Sumit Antil mentioned candidly, "I knew I couldn't do a 9-5 job. I knew I can practice and train for 8 hours but I can't sit still and study for such a long stretch," he confessed.
At a juncture like this when Sumit was nowhere familiar with the sport of javelin that he had a fateful meeting, "That's when I met Virender (Dhankar) at the SAI stadium and it was he who told me that Para Games happen and what are the ways that we can participate and play in it," inviting him to another world of possibilities. But Sumit was still not sure about which sport to choose and one day when he was on the field he saw a few people hurling the javelin and very innocently, he pointed to it and said, "Mujhe yeh game khelna hai (I want to play this game)", without having any clue as to what it is.
"I thought these sticks might me what, costing 700-800 rupees maximum as I held it in my hand for the first time," Sumit revealed with a twinkle in his eyes. "Soon I was told that the javelin I was holding was actually 1.5 lakhs and for the life of me, I thought they are joking and making fun of me," Sumit recalled. In no way was Sumit able to imagine how this simple a thing could be so expensive and he was immediately intrigued by the sport.
Deciding that this is what he likes the most, Sumit had asked a very generic question to Virender, the 2018 Asian Games silver medallist. "I had asked Virender what's the World Record back then in para javelin...and now I only have the World Record," Sumit mentioned, a big but humble smile playing on his face, as he sat there recollecting such old anecdotes.
Needless to say, Sumit Antil's life changed dramatically when he took up the javelin, and given his surging confidence, he even has what it takes to compete with non-para athletes. His throws are powerful and at the Tokyo Paralympics, Antil broke and made 3 World Records in quick succession en route to getting the gold and being the very best of the sport currently - but even after all of it, he still has no airs and remains equally passionate about the javelin he once assumed to be just Rs. 700-800.