When Indias Girisha Nagerajegowda cleared 1.74 metres in the mens Paralympic high jump final at the Olympic Park in London on Monday to win silver,his handicap was more than just the physical impediment of the left foot on which he wore only a rubber slip-on.
Competing in only his third international meet,Girisha had to overcome the anxiety of competing before a packed house,an atmosphere mostly alien to Indias para-athletes,at his first Paralympics.
Girishas reluctance to wear spikes and instead opt for a flip-flop was on account of being comfortable with an old deprivation his parents,marginal farmers,couldnt afford buy him sport shoes.
His technique the scissor kick is archaic,but one that has always worked for him. As a mischievous child in Hosanagara,Hassan,Girisha scaled fences in similar fashion when chased by his angry parents. Even while winning gold at a Commonwealth meet in 2006,he had taken off with his legs leading the rest of the body.
Girishas review status at the Games he was competing in the category of jumpers with a single above knee amputation or comparable disability meant there was additional pressure on him. I had to overcome many challenges before and at the Paralympics,but winning the silver has made it all worth it, Girisha,25,said from London.
Four months earlier at the Malaysian Open Athletic Meet,where he qualified for the Paralympics,Girisha adopted the commonly used Fosbury Flop technique,but going into the Games decided to put his faith in the scissor.
Most of his rivals were using hi-tech spikes,but we decided to go with what Girisha is comfortable in. The rubber chappal on his left foot protected his weaker limb,while his right foot,the one with which he takes off,was bare, Girishas coach Satyanarayana said from London.
Satyanarayana said that while his ward followed every fitness drill prescribed by Russian-born coach Yevgeny Nikitin,Girishas energy bar equivalent wasnt supplements or vitamins. He would drink tender coconut water,kernel and fruits and never wanted to tamper with his diet too much. He is a village boy and right through his career has remained true to his roots, Satyanarayana said. The para-athletes cousin Harish recalled how his parents were too poor to think of taking Girisha to a doctor when he was born,and believed that he had polio.
But Girisha never let his disability discourage him. He was very naughty as a child. But he never sympathized with himself or wanted any sympathy from others. Thats how his parents brought him up. His friends would tease him,but instead of getting upset,he became more determined to make a name for himself, Harish said. On Monday night,against some of the best in the world,Girisha did exactly that.
For his medal winning effort,Nagarajegowda will be awarded with Rs 30 lakh,Sports Minister Ajay Maken tweeted on Tuesday.
Maken in his tweet said all the medal winners at the Paralympics will be given the same amount of reward money,which was disbursed to the achievers at the Olympics Games. Paralympic Medal Winners also to get cash awards of same amount as Olympics. Rs 50 lacs Gold,30 Silver&20 Bronze. Nagaraj gets 30 lacs!, Maken tweeted.