Gold medal in bag, Paralympic medallist Nishad Kumar decides to have some fun
Nishad Kumar had ensured his gold medal at the National Para-Athletics Championship by the halfway stage in the T-47 High Jump final. He then treated the crowd to a show as he went for a new Asian record.
Bhubaneswar: Nishad Kumar always walks with a swagger. Almost like athletes from the Caribbean. At the Kalinga Stadium during the National Para Athletics Championships on Tuesday, it became clear where that swagger comes from.
Nishad's confidence as he goes about his business on the field leaves one in awe. The celebrations which follow a successful jump, even more so. Of course, all of India would remember that backflip from Tokyo after he failed to clear the 2.09m barrier but ensured a silver with an Asian Record of 2.06m in Men's T-47 High Jump at the Paralympics.
Things were not much different at the 20th National Para Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar. The 22-year-old from Himachal Pradesh was the lone star attraction in the High Jump field, but he did single-handedly manage to attract a large swarm of journalists and fans.
The competition for Nishad in Bhubaneshwar was not much. It was certainly not at the level which he faced in Tokyo, but the youngster was determined to give it his all to entertain the people who had gathered to watch him in action.
Competing in his first major event since the Tokyo Paralympic silver, Nishad had ensured the gold for himself almost mid-way through the event as his competitors failed to cross the 1.95m mark.
With the top spot on the podium in the bag, the Paralympic medallist decided to have some fun. Out he came to jump over a barrier placed at 2m.
On the top of his run-up, he urged the spectators to cheer. All of a sudden, chants of 'Nishad, Nishad' engulfed the announcements made over the loudspeaker. That attempt, however, ended with him crashing into the bar.
Nishad walked back with a wry smile. He knew he had messed up.
The second attempt started in a similar fashion. But this time he cleared it with daylight between his back and the bar. He took out his BIB and flashed the backside of it to all the cameramen present.
"Love Himachal Pradesh," it read.
He stood on the cushioned bed for a second and shouted to the officials, "Bas sir (that's it sir, I am done)."
The energy around the high-jump area dropped all of a sudden. They wanted to see the star-jumper in action more, but it was over.
The eyes soon moved to the sidelines, where there was a mini-conference happening between Nishad and his team.
One of them quietly walked to the officials on the desk and whispered, "Raise the bar to 2.05m."
The officials were perplexed. They looked at Nishad, who confirmed his affirmation with just a shake of the head. Up the bar went to 2.05m.
"It has been a long break since the Tokyo Paralympics. I was in a good rhythm today, so the team wanted me to go for better attempts," Nishad explained to The Bridge after the end of the event.
That 2.05m was not much of a challenge for Nishad - he went over it in the very first attempt. The BIB came off once again with a loud roar as the crowd present went into a frenzy.
As he got down from the cushioned bed he looked at the officials and announced, "2.08m kar do sir (take the bar to 2.08m)."
The next three attempts at 2.08m went in a jiffy as Nishad failed to go past the bar. The crowd support, however, never dipped.
What went wrong for him in that Asian Record attempt?
"I won't worry much about that. I felt all of a sudden my technique was off a bit and I was not able to generate the required pace for the jump," he said.
Hailing from Una district of Himachal Pradesh, Nishad Kumar now has his eyes set on the upcoming 2022 Asian Para-Games in Hangzhou.
"The immediate focus now is on the Asian Para Games. There are two or three Grand Prix events in between, but the main aim is to finish on the podium in the Asian Games," he stated.
Nishad was also excited at the prospect of a Para-Athletics event being hosted on such a big scale.
"It is quite exciting to see so many para-athletes here eager to prove themselves. It's wonderful how the PCI hosted it keeping all the issues faced by para-athletes in mind," he said.