I have to win gold, break the record: Mariyappan Thangavelu

Mariyappan, the defending Paralympic champion, would be competing in the men’s high jump F42 event in the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics.

Mariyappan Thangavelu has his eyes set on retaining his gold at the Paralympic in Tokyo.   -  REUTERS

“I have to win gold, break the record and I’m sure I can achieve it,” said the Rio Paralympic gold medallist, Mariyappan Thangavelu in an interview with Sportstar.

Revealing that his coach Satyanarayana from Sports Authority of India (SAI) had full faith in him to do so, the 28-year-old said, “He [coach] has sent me with a hope of getting a gold medal and [breaking] record.”

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Mariyappan would be competing in the men’s high jump F42 event in the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics. F42 category is for athletes with a leg deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement in the legs. The athletes in this category compete in standing position.

It was in this event he had won India’s first gold at the 2016 Rio Paralympics with a jump of 1.89 metres. He credits his coach for his gold at Rio. “The reason I won my medal is due to my coach,” the Khel Ratna recipient said.

Following the Rio Olympics, in 2018 he suffered an ankle injury as a bone was slightly cut and underwent surgery. “After the operation, I had to undergo training slowly to recover and also went through strengthening. It was a very hard phase, but my coach gave me light training [and helped me recover].”

Talking about the difference in training before both the Olympics, he said, “Before Rio, I did not train heavily, but now I have been trained hard by my coach.” After recovering from his injury, Mariyappan went on to win the bronze medal at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships.

When asked about the pressure he faces in Tokyo to win gold again as the defending champion, he said, “I’ve taken this as a challenge. If we think about pressure and expectations, then the jump and training can’t happen. We have to set aside the pressure and focus on the training.”

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Mariyappan will be India’s flag-bearer in the opening ceremony of the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics. "I was at the SAI training camp [when I got to hear that I was selected as the flag-bearer]. I was very happy and proud. I told this to my mother, she also was very happy that I was getting a chance to hold the Indian flag,” said the Tamil Nadu athlete.

Rather unwilling to pick out a single tough competitor, Mariyappan felt that all participants were tough opponents. “I never think that it's easy to beat anyone and undermine them. If we think they are tough, then only we can become the best.”

Opening up about his future plans, Mariyappan said he wanted to set up a sports academy with all sports facilities.

Action from 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games – Opening Ceremony will Live on Eurosport and Eurosport HD from 16:15 Hrs (04:15 pm IST) onward on Tuesday, August 24, 2021. The Live feed from Eurosport will also be streamed on the discovery+ app.

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