The first Indian woman to clinch a Paralympic medal, a thrilled Deepa Malik says her F-53 shot put silver is a result of being daring enough to dream.
Deepa’s best throw of 4.61m from her six attempts was enough to clinch the silver medal.
“I dared to dream and I have determination to work hard and the passion and perseverance to follow that dream. Women often lose that and I have ensured that my family is not neglected, my children are doing well too,” Deepa said.
A paraplegic, paralysed from waist down, Deepa is married to an Army man and is a mother of two. The 45-year-old was consigned to the wheelchair 17 years ago after being operated for a spinal tumour.
She underwent 31 surgeries, which was healed after 183 stitches between her waist and legs.
“I am very happy to win this medal and I am so glad that I could do this for my country. I really want to thank my coaches and my trainers, Sports Authority of India, and the Sports Ministry for funding my training so beautifully.
“I also want to thank my husband for being my skill trainer and my daughters for being my strength and motivation. I am so eager to come back to India,” she said.
Deepa had won national and international medals in swimming, before switching to athletics in 2009.
“I was the first biker, first swimmer, first rallyist (rally driver) and I am going to be the first Paralympian medallist. This is huge. I give it to my daughters. I give it to my husband, my trainer, my country. I am so excited,” she said.
Deepa might even have taken the gold, but for a mighty third throw of 4.76m from Bahrain’s Fatema Nedham, which was a regional record. Dimitra Korokida claimed the bronze for Greece with an effort of 4.28m.
In 2009 Deepa became the first person with paraplegia to ride in one of the world’s highest and most difficult motor rallies in the Himalayas.
Deepa’s success comes after two Indian men – high jumpers Mariyappan Thangavelu and Bhati Varun Singh – won gold and bronze respectively at the Olympic Stadium on Friday.
Deepa hoped that her achievements would inspire others to beat adversity.
“This is very significant. I hope my journey and the medal can serve as an inspiration for differently-abled individuals to break out from their social boundaries and pursue their dreams,” she said.
“I remember when I first had the tumour all those years back, people thought I would be restricted to my house throughout my life with servants looking after my daily needs,” she added.
Deepa said she always wanted to be independent despite her disability.
“…I wanted to break out from that mould and took to swimming, motorsports and eventually javelin and shot put. My goal was to become independent despite my disability and today due to sport and the support of my family, I very much am an independent individual,” she said.
Although Deepa’s Paralympic performance will always be the pinnacle of her sporting career, she’s no stranger to winning awards and accolades for her country.
In 2012 she was the oldest recipient to be honoured with the Arjuna Award at the age of 42. And she clinched a Para Asian Games medal in 2014 in Incheon.
In the run up to the games at Rio, she also won a gold medal in Javelin Throw at the IPC Oceania Asian Championships in Doha and a silver medal in Shotput at the same event.