Going into the Rio Paralympics in 2016, Sundar Singh Gurjar was one of India's best medal hopes in the men's javelin F46 category.
He was one of the favourites for a medal in the event after breaking the national record earlier that year. "I wanted to win. That was all that I had in mind. I had prepared for this day since the last four years of my life and wanted to make it count," recalled Sundar in an interview with ESPN.
However, while the event was a success for India as Devendra Jhajharia won his second gold medal, Sundar was not as successful. In a tragic turn of event, he was disqualified from the event after being just fifty-two seconds late at reporting to the registration desk. The delay was not due to any mistake of Sundar's.
It was probably because Sundar did not speak English and could not understand the accent of the announcer. "It was a very disturbing experience. A little miscommunication resulted in something so life-changing. I was never told about a fixed time, and I couldn't understand when my name was announced. It was bad luck, I suppose," he had said in the interview.
The disqualification broke Gurjar mentally, and he didn't even want to touch the javelin again. But his coach Mahabir Prasad Saini took him for counseling and arranged sessions with motivational speakers.
After the disappointment, Sundar bounced back well to win two gold medals in para athletics world championships in 2017 and 2019. He became just the second Indian to win two gold medals at para athletics world championships. He is again one of the favourites to win a medal at the Tokyo Paralympics.
He said in the interview to Paralympic.org in 2020 "Whatever happened in Rio is still haunting me. I was in good touch and hoping for a podium finish." It will probably only stop haunting him if and when he wins an Olympic medal.
Sundar Singh Gurjar first began javelin throwing in 2012. He participated in athletics at the junior national level with athletes without disabilities. However, he had a terrible accident in 2015 that caused him to lose his left hand.
His hand was cut by a metal sheet falling on his hand at a friend's house. Following this accident, he initially thought he had to stop being a javelin thrower, but he was introduced to para athletics by RD Singh, who ran a training centre nearby.
Since then, Sundar has trained very hard to be a successful para athlete. Even during the pandemic, when a lot of athletes were in lockdown and could not train, Sundar made sure he was able to train really hard.
So he asked permission from the Rajasthan government to stay at the hostel and use the facilities at the athletic centre. "I didn't want to sit at home and wait for things to happen. So, I requested our minister and he allowed me to use the hostel. It wasn't easy because the entire country was in lockdown, but Mr Chandna went out of his way to help me out," said Sundar.
He also spoke in an interview to Paralympic.org about how training in the lockdown has improved his throw and how he is now ready to compete at the Paralympics. "I am now throwing beyond 68 metres. This is something that has boosted my confidence for the Tokyo Games, as 63.97 metres is a world record. But I'm not taking anything lightly.
"This is the best thing that has happened before Tokyo," he continued.