From darkness to light — the Sundar Singh Gurjar story

On Wednesday, he bettered the world record in the men’s F46 javelin throw at the PCI Indian Open para athletics championship, his throw of 64.11 superior to Devendra Jhajharia’s 63.97 from two years ago.

Sundar Singh Gurjar at the SAI in Bengaluru on Thursday.   -  Shreedutta Chidananda

Sundar Singh Gurjar is now smiling; he is doing what he likes, and doing it well. On Wednesday, he bettered the world record in the men’s F46 javelin throw at the PCI Indian Open para athletics championship, his throw of 64.11 superior to Devendra Jhajharia’s 63.97 from two years ago.

It should, in due course, be ratified as a world record (provided it is not eclipsed in the interim) by the International Paralympic Committee, whose technical delegate, Jerry Clayton, was at the SAI here.

“I had prepared well,” says Gurjar. “My confidence has come back.”

It has taken Gurjar a long time to get here. “After Rio, my heart was just not in it. For five or six months, I just did not want to do anything,” he says.

Going into the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Gurjar was one of the favourites for the gold medal in javelin.

On the day of the event, he somehow missed roll call. He was late by a minute and was disqualified.

“I was broken,” he says. “The world record was 62.15 and I was throwing near 70 in training (he already had the National record of 68.42 to his name). I felt I was going to win gold. My dream was shattered.”

Depressing days

In the immediate aftermath of the Paralympics, Gurjar contemplated suicide.

His coach, Mahaveer Singh Saini, would not leave him unattended in a room for the next few weeks. Gurjar did not go home for a year.

It was only when he won gold at the World Championships in 2017 that he returned to his town of Hindaun – some 150km from Jaipur, where he trains. “I told him: ‘You can continue to be depressed, but how will you show the world what you are capable of?’” says Saini.

That evening in Rio, Jhajharia won gold with a record throw of 63.97. It is the same mark Gurjar has now surpassed.

The 22-year-old’s focus is next on the Para Asian Games in October. “I’m not worried about competition,” he says. “If I win a medal, I’m happy.”

The almond treat

Gurjar switched to para-athletics from able-bodied sport only in 2015, when his left-arm was severed at the wrist in an accident.

In his younger days he was a wrestler, he recalls, competing in village-level bouts for money.

“I won 1200 rupees once; it was a huge sum for me. I bought some almonds with it,” he says.

Gurjar is laughing at the memory. He is a happy man these days.