At Tokyo - India's best ever medal tally in the Paralympics
CHANDIGARH: Held under a cloud of Covid-19 and the Taliban's invasion over Afghanistan, the Tokyo Paralympics witnessed participation of 162 nations, with India sending it's largest ever contingent of 54 athletes spreading across nine disciplines, and the Paralympians returning with an unprecedented haul of 19 medals.
After the able-bodied athletes returned with a best ever medal tally from Tokyo, Indian Paralympians lifted India's spirits with impressive performances.
Be it gold medalist javelin thrower Sumit Antil breaking multiple world records in a span of a few minutes or high jumper Nishad Kumar shattering the Asian record in the T47 category and Manish Narwal setting a new Paralympic record in Mixed 50m Pistol shooting, the Indians never failed to impress in the showpiece event. TOI recounts the most cherished moments of the Tokyo Paralympics.
Flying High: Nishad Kumar
Hailing from Himachal Pradesh's Una district, high jumper Nishad Kumar cleared 2.06m to win a silver medal at the Tokyo Paralympics. In the process, Nishad, who overcame Covid-19 successfully in early 2021, set an Asian record in the men's high jump T47 event.
Putting the heart-wrenching tale of losing his right hand in a fodder-cutting machine, behind him, Nishad jumped 2.02m in his first attempt in the medal round before reaching 2.06m in his third attempt. It was only bettered by American Roderick Townsend with a jump of 2.15m with another American Dallas Wise tied with Nishad on 2.06m.
A smartphone bought from prize money won in a local competition in Himachal Pradesh inspired Nishad to take up para sports in 2017, when he shifted to Panchkula to train under Naseem Ahmad, the coach of Neeraj Chopra during his formative days, and Vikram Chaudhary. Since then, there was no looking back for the World Para Championship bronze medallist.
"My father and a cousin added another Rs 2,500, and with that money, I got my first smartphone, costing Rs 5,500. I used it to watch videos of para sports, and then I decided to switch to para sports," he had told TOI after winning the silver.
In 2019, Nishad emerged as the champion at the World Para Grand Prix Championship in Dubai with a jump of 1.92m before bagging a bronze at the World Para Championships in Dubai the same year with a jump of 1.99m.
Born to Rashpal Singh, a mason and Pushpa Kumari, a housewife, Nishad now looks forward to a job that gives him the security to pursue his dreams of a Paralympic gold with an open mind.
Mastering Adversity: Harvinder Singh
From suffering impairment in his left leg due to a local doctor's medical negligence at the tender age of one to losing his mother, mere 20 days before pocketing the gold at the 2018 Para Asian Games, Tokyo bronze medallist Harvinder Singh has never allowed the odds to overpower him.
In the run-up to the Tokyo Games, adversity struck Harvinder again when he was down with dengue and subsequently the lockdown due to Covid-19 affected his training. With the post-harvest season on, he converted his farm in Kaithal district of Haryana into an archery range, and the rest is history.
Singh initially started training in Compound archery but later shifted his focus to Recurve a few years later, to emerge the national champion in 2016 and 2017. He later went on to pick the gold at the 2018 Para Asian Games in Jakarta.
But Singh, who is pursuing his PHD in Economics from Punjab University, believes that even though his performance in Tokyo was good, it was far from perfect. He aims to get there by Paris 2024.
Sumit Antil: Breaking Multiple World Records
Six years ago, Sonipat wrestler Sumit Antil lost his leg below the knee in a motorbike accident. But that didn't deter him from pursuing his dream of representing India at the highest level. He switched over to para sports, and excelled in F64 javelin throw with a gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics.
Sumit shattered the men's F64 category world record multiple times. He sent the spear to 68.55m in his fifth attempt, which was the best of the day by quite a distance and a new world record. Antil had bettered the previous world record of 62.88m, also set by him, five times on the day.
Hunting in a pair
Singhraj Adhana (Shooting Silver)
Singhraj Adhana made it a sensational one-two finish for India at the Tokyo Paralympics when he bagged the silver behind Manish Narwal's gold in P4 Mixed 50m Pistol SH1 event. Adhana, who hails from Bahadurgarh in Haryana, competes with polio-impaired lower limbs.
Manish Narwal (Shooting Gold)
Manish Narwal clinched gold at the Tokyo Paralympics by shooting a total of 218.2 in P4 Mixed 50m Pistol SH1 event. Making his Games debut, the 19-year-old Narwal smashed the Paralympic record enroute the feat. He also holds the world record in the category.
Narwal, who hails from Ballabhgarh in Haryana, has an impairment in his right hand.