Paralympian Devendra Jhajharia serves golden reminder

Jhajharia drifted into oblivion after winning the javelin throw gold medal at the 2004 Athens Paralympics.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | Mumbai | Published: July 23, 2013 4:13 am

Devendra Jhajharia drifted into oblivion after winning the javelin throw gold medal at the 2004 Athens Paralympics. Nine years later,he emerged from the wilderness with a bang,winning India’s first-ever IPC Athletics World Championships gold medal in Lyon on Monday. His effort of 57.04m in the F-46 category,which is meant for one-armed athletes,also helped him set a new meet record.

The 32-year-old Rajasthan athlete,whose world record stands at 62.15m,led the 11-athlete field from the very beginning as he opened with a throw of 54.71m. For Jhajharia,the result was a culmination of an equal measure of disappointment,pain and hard work for nearly nine years.

A year after he won the Paralympics gold in 2004,the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) omitted javelin throw F46 category from its programme for the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. The event was also excluded from the Asian Games. “I had only the world championships to participate in. Obviously,the morale went down. For any sports person,it is important to compete and win at the highest level. And for me,that was the Paralympics,” he says.

Official neglect

Official apathy added to his misery. The Indian Paralympic Committee ‘forgot’ to enter a team for the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch,robbing him of a chance to compete. The team couldn’t take part in the earlier editions in 2007 and 2009 as well,again because of federation’s in-fighting. “It was a tough phase for us. The association forgot to pay the entry fees for the previous World Championships. We somehow managed to send only two athletes – but that too was after a lot of pleading with the international federation. Things have changed for good since the new committee has taken charge in 2011,” says Satyanarayan,the coach of the para-athletics team.

Jhajharia used those instances as an extra motivating factor for the Paris championships. He compiled videos of some of the world’s best javelin throwers and used it as a blueprint to improve his technique and keep up with time.

“What happened in these years was not in my hands. But I knew I would get another chance to prove myself some day and my target was these championships,” Jhajharia says. “I ensured I kept myself motivated and didn’t allow negative thoughts to creep in.”

The 32-year-old Rajasthan athlete,who is an office superintendent with the Indian Railways,says his mental strength gives him an edge over the rest. He cites the example of his last throw on Monday,which won him the gold. “By my own standards,I did not have great throws in the first few attempts. But I did not give up and broke the world championship record with the last throw. I may not be physically fit but I am mentally fit than most of the able-bodied athletes. I think that is my biggest strength,” he says.

Jhajharia says he hasn’t yet thought about his future. For now,though,he wants to go sight-seeing in France. “I don’t know which will be the next major championship that I will take part in. So why worry about that? Right now,I can afford to relax and if I manage to get some time,I’d like to go around the countryside and spend some time there before returning home.”

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