India’s Olympics ended with Neeraj Chopra’s gold, and it is in Javelin again that the country will look to hit the high notes at the Paralympics through 40-year-old multi Games champion, Devendra Jhajharia. The Athens and Rio Paralympics double champion, aiming for his third gold in what could be his swansong, will lead the charge, as India looks to surpass the Olympic tally of 7 medals. The city that immortalised wheelchair basketball through Takehiko Inoue’s manga ‘REAL’ is all set to host India’s best para-athletes. ANDREW AMSAN lists the Indians to watch out for in Tokyo Paralympics:
Javelin – F44/64
(Lower limb/s competing with prosthesis affected by limb deficiency and leg length difference)
The 22-year-old set his personal best of 66.90m at the Para national in March. He also took part in the third leg of the Indian Grand Prix earlier this year, an able-bodied tournament, alongside reigning Olympic champion, Neeraj Chopra. His 66.43m effort eventually earned him the sixth spot in the finals but it was a rare instance where a para-athlete competed in an open national event. He had earned a spot for Tokyo at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships where he finished behind gold winner Sandeep Chaudhary.
High jump- T-42
(Single above the knee amputations or a disability)
Mariyappan will return to defend his Rio title in Tokyo after a rather quiet run-up to the Paralympics. Apart from the World’s bronze in 2019, Mariyapan’s road to Tokyo has been lacklustre. Coach Satyanarayana believes his trainee had a dry spell due to some injury concerns that have been ironed out now. Mariyaappan was raised by a single mother who used to work as a construction labourer.
Badminton – SL3
Men’s singles and doubles (Standing/lower limb minor impairment)
With badminton set to make its debut at the Paralympics in Tokyo, India has sent a strong 7-member squad. 2019 World champion Pramod Bhagat would feel he has one hand on the yellow metal already. The 33-year-old from Odisha was infected by polio on his left leg as a five-year-old. Bhagat, who has now bagged more than two dozen international medals, initially pursued his first love, cricket but later found his true calling in badminton.
Yathiraj – SL 3
The officer on court: Despite his jam-packed schedule due to the pandemic, Noida District Magistrate Suhas L Y continued his badminton training. The 38-year-old 2017 World Champion was granted a bipartite quota in the men’s singles category of para-badminton by the Badminton World Federation.
(Single below or above the elbow amputation)
Jhajharia is coming off a personal best of 65.71m, more than a metre and half better than his Rio gold effort, at the trials in June. With a training regimen tweaked to suit his body which is past its prime, Jhaharia has been able to hit the “form of his life”. The Jaipur athlete is on course for a record-shattering third gold at the mega event. 2017 Para Worlds champion Sundar Singh Gurjar (F-46) is also in contention.
Javelin – F44/64
The 2019 World Champion is eyeing his first medal at the Paralympics. The 25-year-old from the Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan met with an accident when he was 12 that left his left leg severely injured and stunted its growth. After spending the next year in crutches, Sandeep returned to the ground and tried his hand at javelin. But it wasn’t until he moved to Delhi to train under coach Naval Singh that he discovered his true potential.