When they are not following their passion, they work a job just like any other person. Yes, we are talking about the para-athletes who are representing India in the ongoing Tokyo Paralympics. Some do it as the breadwinner of the family, while some do it as a steady source of income in this uncertain sporting environment. It is inspiring to see these athletes, who have already gone through so much, strike an equilibrium between their necessities and their aspirations. Here are some of these gritty men and women who can do it all.
Despite meeting with an accident at the age of 18, that made her wheelchair-bound, Ekta Bhyan shows how almost nothing can stop us if we are dedicated enough. She made it a point to pursue her education and cracked the Haryana Civil Services examination in 2013. It was a very proud moment for her when she joined the Haryana government in Hisar as an Assistant Employment Officer. She had always wanted to be financially independent, and now she was. Soon after, veteran athlete Amit Saroha took her under his wing and trained her in the discipline of Club Throw. The Para Asian games gold medallist will now very much like to finish at the top of the podium at the Paralympics.
The 2016 Paralympics gold medallist had found himself in a tough spot in 2017, just one year on from his heroics in Rio. In spite of a huge sum that he received as prize money, the athlete was looking for a job to provide for his family. After seeing Thangavelu and the plight of other athletes, the Sports Authority of India decided to offer the jobs of coaches and assistant coaches to a list of 14 sportspersons. The 2018 list included the high jumper, who was bestowed with a Group A post as a coach. He continues to fulfil his coaching duties as he attempts to replicate his gold-winning performance at the Tokyo Paralympics.
The eldest member of this year's contingent is all set to add that elusive Paralympics medal as she looks to take the court by storm during Badminton's debut at the Tokyo games. Apart from being the experienced shuttler she is, the para-athlete is employed with the Sports Authority of Gujarat as a Divyang coach.
In 2007, he became the country's first differently-abled civil servant. In 2016, he entered the history books once again as he became the first Indian bureaucrat to participate and win an International Badminton championship. The District Magistrate of Gautam Budha Nagar had won the gold in the 2016 Asian Para-Badminton championship, and now, he aims for a similar performance at this year's Paralympics.
Coming from a humble background, the para archer was always in the face of adversity throughout her early life and career. Her father was her biggest supporter, but after his untimely demise, the family was left financially strained. This forced Jyoti to do a number of odd jobs here and there to support her family. She was almost on the verge of quitting her dreams, but her coach had the most faith in her. Slowly her situation became better, and so did her game. Today, she is a strong medal hopeful at the Tokyo Paralympics.
Hailing from a family of farmers, Vivek Chikara had done an MBA in retail management in 2015. He worked as an executive for Mahindra & Mahindra before he lost his left leg below the knee to a truck accident in 2017. It was during the lowest point in his life that Chikara discovered Archery, which turned out to be a life-saver. Thanks to his job savings, he was able to afford a recurve bow worth Rs. 3 lakh in 2018 that kickstarted his career as a para archer.
Ram Pal Chahar
Having always been a sports enthusiast, Ram Pal continued his passion for the high jump through his school and college life. But an uncertain future in the world of sport prompted him to go on with his education. He got his first job in 2018 with the Central government in their Income Tax department. This year, he was made the Deputy Director in Sports and Youth Affairs, Panchkula, Haryana.
Financial restraints are not an unknown entity to many para-athletes. Pramod Bhagat is no stranger to the same. After his father's passing and his mother left to raise 6 children, Bhagat had to take up a private job while training for his dreams. He had also worked as a Badminton coach at a school in the Bargarh district for some time. But all this hard work had paid off when he went on to win the bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Para games, after which he received financial support from his state and central government.
Along with Thangavelu, the 29-year old High Jumper was also included in the list taken out by the Sports Authority of India in 2018. The para-athlete was offered a Group B post as an assistant coach, and he currently continues to be employed with the SAI.
The experienced Javelin thrower is currently employed as a coach with the Department of Sports and Youth Affairs, Government of Haryana. He is another athlete who is on the list of medal hopefuls at the Tokyo Paralympics. He had the honour of leading out the Indian contingent at the opening ceremony in Tokyo as the flag-bearer after Mariyappan Thangavelu was in quarantine.