Deepa Malik: 'We're looking at a better tomorrow for Paralympics'

Silver medallist in the Rio Paralympics Deepa Malik believes the medals won by India's Paralympians have 'brought a feeling of patriotism and respect for Paralympics' to usher in a better tomorrow for Paralympics in India. She was speaking at a felicitation function for India's medallists in Chennai.

Mariappan Thangavelu (first from left), Varun Singh Bhati (second from left), Devendra Jhajharia (third from left) and Deepa Malik (seated) at a feliciltation function in Chennai.   -  M. Vedhan

R. Satynarayana, who has coached Paralympic Games medallist Mariappan Thangavelu and Varun Singh Bhati, has already prepared plans for the athletes to improve their performances ahead of the world championships next year.

Speaking at an event organised by Velammal Vidyalaya to felicitate the four medal winners in the Rio Paralympics, Satyanarayana said, “We have the world championships in London next July. Mariyappan and Varun (Singh Bhati) will go to Ukraine next year and will work with Niktiti Juegen. There are some technical changes to be made to improve their performances in the next year.”

The school presented Deepa Malik, (Silver in Shot Put), Varun Singh Bhati (Bronze in high-jump) and Devendra Jhajharia (Gold in Javelin) with gold coins worth Rs 5,00,000 while T. Mariappan, who won gold in the high-jump event was presented with a car. The athletes also engaged in an interactive session with students of the school.

Speaking about the recognition for the Paralympic athletes post the success in Rio, Malik said, “I think the response to these medals is overwhelming. The most amazing thing in the journey is the first thing people say when meeting us is not ‘congratulations’ but ‘Thank you for making India proud.’ It has brought a feeling of patriotism and respect for Paralympics. Under the new committee of the PCI, which has been revived, we are looking for a better tomorrow for Paralympics.”

She also added, “All four of us individually brought home very historic medals. For Devendra, it was about recreating history by breaking the world record. Mariappan first ever gold in high jump. Varun and Mariappan have done good in the same event. My medal is the first for an Indian woman. These medals have created a wave of love and affection. The way we were treated gives us hope and joy.”

Malik also hoped her medal will help inspire more women. “This Paralympics and Olympics has proved that women have also arrived. So we are getting there. The only thing we need is better infrastructure, more opportunity and definitely social and family backing.”

Jhajharia, who won gold and created a world record in the 2004 Athens Games, felt the Rio medal was much more special, saying, “This medal came after 12 years and more importantly I was able to break my own world record and set a new one.”

T. Mariappan hoped the laurels will effect a positive change in terms of facilities for the para athletes going forward saying, “The para-athletes need a lot of encouragement and better infrastructure facilities. There are a lot of talents but they need to be encouraged so that they can do well and make the country proud.”

Change needed among teachers

Satyanarayana also added that there needs to be a fundamental change into the role of physical education teachers in schools to effect a positive change for sports in India.

“Physical Education teachers outnumber coaches in our country and they have a vital role to play in an athlete’s career. They must be given time during school hours to coach students and not be used to teach only a few drills and to maintain discipline during assembly sessions.”