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Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

After setting personal best, para-athlete Sumit Antil now aims to finish on the podium at the Tokyo Paralympics

The 23-year-old is in fine form heading into the grandest stage of them all and is one of our brightest medal hopes at Tokyo Paralympics.

Indian Para Athlete Sumit Antil
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Sumit Antil

By

Ananth Narasimman

Updated: 2021-08-25T12:55:26+05:30

Sumit Antil was an ace Indian wrestler and an avid sports fan with dreams of representing his country at the grandest stage. The youngster from Khewra near Haryana's Sonepat almost had his dreams snatched away from him when he met with a tragic accident while returning home from his tuition.

A tractor hit his bike causing major injuries on his leg, the doctors suggested that they would have to amputate his left leg for him to recover. After months in the hospital recovering, an amputated leg reignited his dreams of winning a medal for his country at the grandest stage.

"Kushti aur padhai mein kuch karke naukri lagne ka sapna tha. (I had plans to get a job through
wrestling
and also focusing on studies). But the accident changed things. When it happened, I was conscious and made the call to the ambulance. Later, doctors told me about the need to amputate my leg," he recalls in an interview with The New Indian Express (TNIE).
Determination and persistence is something that stuck with the youngster since his father's demise. His father was an Air Force officer who passed away unfortunately because of cancer, being the youngest of four children, Sumit did not let that deter him but rather inspire him to give his everything in anything he did.
He was a regular feature at the Dangals near his hometown and was a rising wrestling star before his accident and shift to para-sports.
His work ethic, persistence and never say die attitude paid off as he rose rapidly among the ranks and held his own against the best in the nation and at the international stage. His status as one of India's best bets at the Tokyo Paralympics was proven in the Indian Grand Prix where he competed against the likes of Olympic gold medalist Neeraj Chopra.
Sumit held his own and broke compatriot Sandeep Chaudhary's world record in the javelin's F44 and F64 categories with a remarkable throw of 66.43 m.
"I wish to maintain this consistency. I feel there is still scope for improvement, and that will be the focus going into the Paralympics," Antil said post his record-breaking throw, reports Times Of India.
Competing against better competition always brings out the best in the elite athletes and Sumit was no different as he gave the likes of Olympians Neeraj Chopra and Shivpal Singh a run for their money.
"Because of the pandemic, I was competing in my first meet since the 2019 Worlds. After our para national body gave me permission to compete in the Indian Grand Prix, I was very excited. I was only thinking about my performance. I was motivated to see Neeraj Bhai and Shivpal Bhai throw over 80 m that evening. And to have a coach like Uwe applaud my effort was my biggest reward," Antil told The Sunday Express.
His coach Naval Singh says the best is yet to come from the youngster and that he had a lot of room to grow. He could not give it his all as he competed with a new prosthetic limb which he still has not got used to due to the unfortunate challenges the pandemic posed.
"He will get better in the coming months. Even today, he couldn't produce his best show as this was only his second meet with the new prosthetic limb," Singh told TOI.
"Every year, he needs 6-7 new prosthetic limbs as they break because of the power he imparts while launching into the throw. Thanks to the support from TOPS and, GoSports he is able to get the replacements which come at about Rs 4 lakh," the coach added.
His work ethic is something which is inspiring as he approaches to practice with the same energy and vigour that he would an international competition. His natural ability shines through but unfortunately, difficulty with his new prosthetic limb came in between him being in his best form.
"He has natural ability but we faced a different challenge. After 10-15 days of training, the skin on his knee, which marked the connection to the prosthetic leg, would get severely bruised and we had to stop training. So we would work on increasing his lower body strength. Once healed, he would spend more than eight hours training every day," says Singh, in an interview with TNIE.
"We were planning to get him a new leg in March 2020. But then the lockdown meant that these plans got postponed. At Patiala, he broke his prosthetic leg and we have been training with a different leg for the last five days. It is like starting all over again. If things remain well, he can touch the 70-m mark this year," he added.
Sumit is all set to make history at the Tokyo Paralympics with the hope of finally fulfilling his lifelong dream of making his mother proud by winning a medal for the country and for all the sacrifices she has made to see him successful. "She has been my pillar of strength all these years and for her to see me win an Olympic medal will be the gift for all her struggles," he says, reports TNIE.


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