Record haul as national flag hoisted multiple times in Tokyo
“Disabilities are not hindrances in achieving greatness, the mind is the greatest asset that cannot be disabled,” wrote author David Akamagwuna.
Sport and physical education are an integral part considered to be an important component of life activities. The developed world has used sports for development of youth. However, in the developing world, the picture is vastly different as major population lives in the rural areas where sports facilities are non-existent. The need of the hour is to give cognisance to physical education in rural areas which must be part of future plans of the Government.
Sport for athletes with impairment has existed for more than 100 years, and the first sport clubs for the hearing impaired were already in existence in 1888 in Berlin. In 1944, at the request of the British Government, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann opened a spinal injuries centre at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Great Britain, and in course of time, rehabilitation sport evolved to recreational sport and then to competitive sport. On the Opening Ceremony Day of the 1948 London Olympics, Dr. Guttmann organised the first competition in archery for 16 injured service men and women wheelchair athletes.
It was not until after World War II, however, that sport for disabled were widely introduced. The purpose of it was to assist the large number of war veterans and civilians who had been injured during wartime. There was giant leap forward when Paralympics were organised for the first time in the 1988 Seoul Olympics Games . Since then both summer and winter Paralympics have become the order ofday as a quadrennial event. Indian paralympians have been in the headlines, particularly since 2016 Rio sports extravaganza. At Tokyo, the Indian tricolor was hoisted on the “Mount Olympus” for record 19 times (five gold, eight silver and six bronze medals).
The haul of medals at Tokyo surpassed India’s previous best medals tallies – four each at the Stoke Mandeville and New York Games in 1984 and Rio 2016. Shooters led the way with the major contribution of five medals, followed by high jump and badminton with four each.
There were several maiden landmarks with Bhavina Patel becoming the first Indian table tennis player to win a Paralympic medal and Harvinder Singh earned similar distinction in archery. However, icing on the cake was shooter Avani Lekhara’s momentous performance that brought fame to the Indian womanhood for being remembered as the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic gold medal.
Among the medal winners are: Avani Lekhara, Sumit Antil, Manish Narwal, Pramod Bhagat, Krishna Nagar (gold); Bhavinaben Patel, Suhas Yathiraj, Yogesh Kathunia, Devendra Jhajharia, Nishad Kumar, Mariyappan Thangavelu, Praveen Kumar, Singhraj Adhana (silver); Sundar Singh Gurjar, Sharad Kumar, Manoj Sarkar, Harjinder Singh, Avani Lekhara, Singhraj Adhana (bronze). It was indeed creditable that Lekhara and Adhana were double medal-winners
The high-water mark of the Indian paralympic athlete was the performance of Avani Lekhara who won a gold medal in 10m air rifle standing and a bronze medal in 50m air rifle standing events. She became the second Indian to win multiple medals at the same Paralympic games after Joginder Singh Sodhi, who bagged three medals at the 1984 Games. Similarly, Singhraj Adhana claimed silver and bronze in different categories of hooting competition.
Pramod Bhagat, a para badminton player who hails from Vaishali district of Bihar waylaid Great Britain’s Daniel Bethell 21-14, 21-17 in the men’s singles SL3 class final for a historic gold medal in badminton. He was afflicted by polio as a five year-old child who grew up to become best para shuttlers in the country with 45 international medals to his credit, including four world championship gold medal.
Manish Narwal shot a total of 218.2, to establish a Paralympic record, for gold in P4 Mixed 50m Pistol SH1 event. While Narwal broke the Paralympic record to clinch India’s third gold, compatriot Singhraj Adana won the silver to make it a sensational one-two finish for the country. Adana, 39 created history as he joins the iconic Indians who have won multiple medals in the same edition of the Games. He won the bronze in the P1 men’s 10m air pistol SH1 event.
The most remarkable feat was a silver from Gautam Budh Nagar, District Magistrate Suhas Yathiraj an IAS officer of 2007 batch who claimed silver in the SL4 category, He had a big job at hand to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. He was bombarded with the requirements of oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, medicines and making arrangements for funerals. Despite a packed schedule, Suhas had to squeeze time to play badminton. He had a band of boys as sparring partners to play with him at late night. The boys were eager to take on the DM on the badminton court. He finally sought refuge in the Greater Noida Pullela Gopichand academy. He honed his skills at the academy to attain World No. 3 ranking in his category and went on to win multiple tournaments over the world.
Harvinder Singh won bronze in the Men’s Individual Recurve Open at the Tokyo Paralympics. He created a record of India’s first medal in archery in the Olympic and the Paralympic Games. He comes from a farmer family of Ajitnagar Village of Haryana’s Kaithal district. In early childhood, a wrong injection to cure his dengue disease led to malfunctioning of his leg. He was drawn to archery while watching, archery competition of 2012 London Olympics and started practicing the arrow game. His preparation for the Tokyo Olympics received a rude shock with the onset of dreaded COVID-19 Pandemic. His father came to his rescue by transforming his village farm into a practice venue. Harvinder beat South Korean Min Su Kim 6-5 to win the bronze medal.
The achievements of the paralympians makes one to look at disabilities objectively. In fact, Nick Vujicici, an Australian American Christian evangelist and motivational speaker with Tetra-Amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterised by the absence of all four limbs (arms and legs) put things in the right perspective, “For every disability you have, you are blessed with more than enough abilities to make your challenges.”