Not being there with his cancer-stricken father during his dying moments last year still rankles Devendra Jhajharia, who on Monday dedicated his third Paralympic medal to the man without whose encouragement, he wouldn’t have competed at the ongoing Games.
The 40-year-old javelin thrower, already India’s greatest Paralympian after winning gold medals in the 2004 and 2016 Games, pulled off a new personal best throw of 64.35m for the silver in F46 classification.
“Of course, this medal belongs to the people of the country but I also want to dedicate this to my late father (Ram Singh Jhajharia) who had wanted me to win another medal in the Paralympics,” Jhajharia told PTI from Tokyo on Monday.
F46 classification is for athletes with arm deficiency, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement in arms. Jhajharia makes this cut owing to the left hand he lost after being electrocuted as an eight-year-old.
Jhajharia came to know about his father’s illness while he was training at Sports Authority of India Centre in Gandhinagar last year.
He rushed home but his father sent him back to continue training as he wanted his son to win another medal at the Paralympics. The inspiration of Jhajharia’s life died in October last year.
“I would not be here if it was not for my father’s efforts. It was he who pushed me to train hard and win another medal. I am happy that today I have fulfilled his dream.”
His father’s death, at the time of which he was training, left him shattered and he was seen crying after winning a national level event.
On Monday, although he bettered his own earlier world record (63.97m) but gold winner Sri Lankan Dinesh Priyan Herath Mudiyanselage (67.79m) was too good for the entire field.
He said he gave his best but admitted that it was the Sri Lankan’s day.
“In sport and competition, it happens. There is always up and down. I did my best and better my personal best. But it so happened that it was his (Sri Lankan’s) day.”
Jhajharia has often talked about possibly retiring from the sport after the ongoing Games but on the day, he wanted to simply savour the triumph.
Asked what the future holds and whether he will be in the Asian Para Games in Hangzhou in China, he said, “My competition in the Paralympics is just over and I can’t think of other things now.”
“I will decide after returning home. I will talk to my family and my coach and make a plan.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked to him on phone after his silver-winning feat.
Asked about that conversation, Jhajharia said, “He congratulated me for bringing laurels to do country. There is nothing happier than the PM of your country encouraging you to excel.
“He interacted with all of us before departing for Paralympics and now also he keeps on motivating us. This is good for the country’s sports.”