Devendra Jhajharia, on Wednesday, clinched the gold medal in the javelin throw F46 event of the Rio 2016 Paralympics. In doing so, Jhajharia broke the previous world record set by himself in the event. Jhajharia’s achievement is India’s second gold medal and fourth medal overall in the Rio Paralympics.
This is the second paralympic gold that Jhajharia has won. Previously, he had won gold at the 2004 Athens Paralympics with a throw of 62.15 metres with which he set a world record. In Rio de Janeiro, he bettered that record with a throw of 63.97 metres. Thus far, in the 2016 Paralympics, India’s four medals include two golds won, one silver and a bronze. Jhajharia is the first Indian to win two Paralympic gold medals.
Jhajharia competed in the event along with fellow Indians Rinku Hooda and Sundar Singh Gurjar. While Hooda managed a fifth-place finish, Sundar Singh Gurjar didn’t start the event.
Devendra Jhajharia was born to a low-earning family in Churu district, Rajasthan. He lost his left hand at the age of eight after accidentally touching an electric wire while climbing a tree.
He started competing in para-athletics while in school in 1995. Two years later, Jhajharia’s talent was spotted by coacj Ripudaman Singh and encouraged him to take up the sport seriously.
Even before the Rio Paralympics, Jhajharia’s reputation as an ace thrower was established. He debuted on the international stage in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea. His 2004 Athens gold was only the second time an Indian had won the gold medal in the Paralympics. His achievements prompted the Indian government to bestow on him the prestigious Arjuna award in 2005. This was followed by the Rajasthan government presenting him with the Maharana Pratap Puraskar Award in the same year. Finally, he received the Padma Shri from then President Pratibha Patil in 2012.
In the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships, the biggest track and field competition for athletes with a disability apart from the Paralympics itself, Jhajharia had won the gold medal in the F46 Javelin throw event. He followed this up with a silver medal in the 2014 Asian Para Games in Incheon, South Korea. In 2014, he was named the para-sportsperson of the year by FICCI. Jhajharia was the flag-bearer for the Indian Paralympic contingent in Rio de Janeiro 2016.
Jhajharia’s medal comes a few days after Deepa Malik won a silver medal in the Shot Put event in the paralympics. Before Deepa, India’s first medals came in the form of a gold and a bronze won in the T-42 High Jump event. Thangavelu Mariyappan won the gold medal with a jump of 1.89 metres while Vrun Bhati came third on the podium with a best mark of 1.86 metres.
Jhajharia’s medal was hailed by one and all in the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the athlete through a tweet early on Wednesday. He was later congratulated by BJP President Amit Shah and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.