The Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) in presence of actor Shah Rukh Khan on Wednesday gave a rousing send-off to the athletes ahead of the third Asian Para Games, slated to be held from October 6 to 13. The Asian Para Games will see players participate in an array of events including athletics, swimming, badminton, chess and powerlifting.
“A massive 300-member team including about 200 athletes, coaches, support staff, escorts, staff and officials will be flying to Jakarta as part of the Indian contingent,” President, PCI, Rao Inderjit Singh, told PTI.
India’s medal hopes will be pinned on Paralympic medallists Deepa Malik, Devendra Jhajharia, Mariappan Thangavelu, Varun Bhati at the continental event. “In 2016 in the Rio Olympics, India was not able to win any gold medals. The entire country was sad. At that time our para athletes took it upon themselves to raise the Indian flag. We got four medals including two golds. Two of our athletes broke world records,” Singh said.
Khan, who heads the Meer foundation that supports the para athletes, said: “My motivation of coming here is very selfish, I used to play sports when I was child. I got hurt one day and after that I was stuck at home for over a year. “I thought my life is over but when I see these players I get inspired. I have come to take inspiration and thank these para athletes for motivating me.”
Deepa, who became the first Indian woman to win a medal in Paralympic Games by clinching the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympics in shot put, expressed her gratitude to the actor for associating himself with the games.
“When an athlete wins a medal its not just his/her medal its the entire country’s. I am thankful to Shah Rukh for coming today because whatever he associates with gets more traction. His association with us will increase awareness about the games,” she said.
Deepa along with other athletes also expressed their desire to name Khan the official brand ambassador of the para athletes. In the Incheon edition of the Para Asian Games, India returned with a rich tally of 33 medals including three gold, 14 silver and 16 bronze medals.