Mariyappan Thangavelu settled for silver in the men’s high jump T42/T63 class after recording a jump of 1.86m at the Tokyo Paralympics on Tuesday. However, needing to breach the mark of 1.88m for the yellow metal, Mariyappan struggled to clear the height as USA’s Sam Grewe breached the mark to bag the gold.
“I expected a gold but the ground condition at the Tokyo National stadium caused a problem for me. At one point during the competition, there was heavy rain and that caused difficulty because I was wearing socks ( on the impaired leg) which got wet,” Mariyappan told the indianexpress.com from Tokyo.
— Paralympic Games (@Paralympics) August 31, 2021
“Hence, at the point of take-off, I could not adjust properly. My mind got a bit disturbed,” Mariyappan explained.
Mariyappan’s coach, R Satyanarayana claimed that had the weather been perfect then clearing 1.88m would not be a problem for his ward.
“Last month he jumped 1.98m in SAI Bangalore. In Rio 2016, he had jumped 1.89m,” reminded Satyanarayana.
It was Satyanarayana who spotted Mariyappan’s talent at the 2013 National Para-Athletics Championship and took him up for training at the Sports Academy of India (SAI) center for differently-abled in Bengaluru. Incidentally, Mariyappan wanted to become a volleyball player but took up the high jump at the insistence of his high school physical education teacher. Within just a year and a half of training, he became World No. 1 in 2015 and as they say, there was no looking back from that point.
Mariyappan also said that he was upset when he had to give up the role of the Indian contingent’s flag-bearer during the opening ceremony. He was in close contact with a COVID-positive fellow passenger during the flight to Tokyo.
“I was a bit disturbed but my coach kept me motivated. The quarantine was particularly difficult for me,” said the Padma Shri and Khel Ratna awardee who suffered permanent disability in his right leg after it was crushed under a bus when he was only 5.
Meanwhile, after his medal-winning performance, PM Modi had a word of encouragement for the 26-year-old. “PM sir called me after the event and congratulated me in Tamil. I am happy that he is encouraging us like this,” said the silver-medallist.
Soaring higher and higher!
Mariyappan Thangavelu is synonymous with consistence and excellence. Congratulations to him for winning the Silver Medal. India is proud of his feat. @189thangavelu #Paralympics #Praise4Para pic.twitter.com/GGhtAgM7vU
Meanwhile, the coronavirus-induced lockdown caused a lot of problems for athletes across the globe but for Mariyappan it was the other way round.
“It actually worked for him because he was totally disconnected with the public and that helped him concentrate and focus better, said coach Satyanarayana.
Mariyappan Thangavelu failed with his first two jumps at 1.86m but was successful with his third attempt.
Lauding the effort of Mariyappan, bronze medallist Sharad Kumar said, “I hope our success becomes the catalyst for the continued growth of para-athletics in India and para-athletes get the much-needed support from the government and the private sector as well.”