The Tokyo Paralympics is just over a week away. Following the end of a successful campaign at the Tokyo Olympics, the Indian sports fans are waiting for the country's Paralympians to take the field in Tokyo since the past one week.
A total of 54 Para-athletes will be seen representing India in Tokyo in the coming weeks. While this is certainly the country's biggest-ever Paralympics contingent, how many of them are real medal hopefuls?
Devendra Jhajharia needs no introduction. With two javelin throw gold medals against his name he is, hands down, the most successful Paralympian to emerge from India. Competing in the F46 category, Devendra Jhajharia won the gold medal five years back in Rio with a world record throw of 63.97m. The 40-year-old broke his own world record with a throw of 65.71m in July earlier this year to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, and will surely be one of India biggest hopes for a podium finish in Tokyo.
A 36-year-old club thrower, Ekta Bhyan hails from the northern state of Haryana. Having taken up the sport only in 2016, Ekta Bhyan has so far won multiple national titles in women's discus and club throw. She shot to fame with her gold medal-winning effort of 16.02m in women's club throw and has since established as the country's premier thrower in women's F51 category.
Varun Singh Bhati
Varun Singh Bhati is a high jumper who competes in the T63 category. Having been affected by deadly polio early in his life, Varun Bhati rose above it with his sheer determination and athletic abilities. He shot to fame with his bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympics and has not look back since. The 26-year-old has since won a bronze medal at the 2017 World Para-Athletics Championships, a silver at the 2018 Asian Para Games and will surely be one of the better medal prospects for India in Tokyo.
Mariyappan Thangavelu became a household name in India after he clinched the gold medal in the men's T42 high jump at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics. He has since risen in stature and even won a bronze at the 2019 World Para-Athletics Championships. Having already been named as the flag bearer for India in the opening ceremony, there surely will be a lot of hopes pinned on Mariyappan Thangavelu when he takes to the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.
Sundar Singh Gurjar
Sundar Singh Gurjar was considered to be one of India's best medal bet at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, but things did not really go to plan then. Competing in the men's F46 javelin throw – the event Devendra Jhajharia won gold in, Sundar Singh Gurjar was disqualified for reaching the call room 52 seconds late. Just 25-year-old, Sundar Singh Gurjar will surely be one of India's medal hopefuls and he, too, would be eager to put the Rio debacle behind his back.
Pramod Bhagat is a para-badminton player hailing from the state of Odisha. The 33-year-old competes in Men's SL3 Singles and is currently ranked number 1 in the world. A multiple World Championships gold medallist in both singles and doubles, Pramod Bhagat surely would be one of the biggest hopes for India to win its first-ever Paralympics medal in badminton.
Palak Kohli and Parul Parmar
The age difference between the women's doubles badminton pair of Palak Kohli and Parul Parmar is a whopping 30 years. But, the duo has shown some terrific performances together and are currently ranked number 6 in the world. The pair of Kohli and Parmar have won multiple medals together, and expecting them to do the same at the Tokyo Paralympics might not be a wrong thing.
A rifle shooter who competes in the women's SH1 category, Avani Lekhara is ranked number 5 in the world in women's 10m air rifle currently. Having suffered spinal cord due to an accident in 2012, Avani found solace in shooting. She won a bronze the very year she took up the sport before making her international debut two years later in 2017. Avani Lekhara has been in some good touch in recent times and had clinched a silver medal at the Para Shooting World Cup in March earlier this year.
A 19-year-old pistol shooter, Manish Narwal is ranked number 4 in the men's 10m air pistol. Hailing from the state of Haryana, Manish started shooting in the year 2016 and has since shown a lot of promise by winning medals at multiple international events.
Sumit Antil is a para-javelin thrower. The 23-year-old is ranked world number 1 in men's F64 for the year 2021. Hailing from the state of Haryana, Sumit Antil had thrown the javelin to a world record distance of 66.90m in F44/64 category during the National Para Athletics Championships, but it was not ratified as it was not an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) certified event.
A para-swimmer from the state of Maharashtra, Suyash Jadhav will be seen competing in men's S7 50m butterfly and men's 200m SM7 individual medley at the Tokyo Paralympics. The 27-year-old is the reigning Asian Games champion in 50m butterfly, and will surely start as one of India's bigger medal hopes in Tokyo.