Mariyappan: 'I stayed calm and did my best'

Mariyappan Thangavelu was elated at his clinical performance in the T42 high jump event in Rio that made him India's third ever gold medallist at the Paralympic Games.

Mariyappan Thangavelu recorded a leap of 1.89 metres to win the gold.   -  Getty Images

Mariyappan Thangavelu took six steps on his left foot, then launched off his right, vaulted over the bar, and into history.

On Friday night in Rio de Janeiro, the 21-year-old became India's third ever gold medallist at the Paralympic Games, winning the men's T42 high jump event with a leap of 1.89m. "I'm just very happy," he said on the phone afterwards. "I expected to win a medal. I just stayed calm and did my best."

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Mariyappan hails from Periavadagampatti, a village some 50km from Salem in Tamil Nadu, where at the age of five an accident left him with a permanent disability. A drunk bus driver swerved dangerously off the road and ran over his right leg, crushing it below the knee.

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His mother sells vegetables for a living back home, while Mariappan trains in Bengaluru. "I spoke to my mother last night. She said I would definitely win the gold," he said. "My first priority is to help her. I want to construct a house of our own."

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Mariyappan has been training under his coach, Satyanarayana, for a year now. "He was the top-ranked jumper in the world, so I was not surprised by his performance," the latter said. "But recording your best jump in a major competition is not easy. He beat the reigning World Champion (Sam Grewe)."

>Talking to Sportstar in May , Mariyappan had seemed confident of finishing on the podium in Rio. "It is not beyond me," he had declared. "Even gold is possible." He had then pointed to his large, misshapen right big toe. "This is what gives me leverage when I jump," he had said. "It is my God." Four months later in Rio, it would not fail him.