Devendra Jhajharia — India's Golden Man

Jhajharia, who hails from Churu, Rajasthan, managed a distance of 63.97 metres in his third attempt, bettering the 62.15m he set at Athens in 2004.

Devendra JHAJHARIA Gold Paralympics Javelin

"This victory is for the whole of India so please don't congratulate me, congratulate the whole nation,” said Jhajharia.   -  PTI

A second gold medal at the Paralympics, 12 years after he won his first with a new world record, is enough to put Devendra Jhajharia into the annals of Indian sports history forever. That he >broke his own record at Rio in the early hours of Wednesday only made the victory sweeter.

“A 23-year old Devendra Jhajharia became India's first gold medalist at the Olympics in 2004. Now a 35-year old Devendra has done it again. It shows nothing is impossible if you have the will to do it and this medal, this victory is for the whole of India so please don't congratulate me, congratulate the whole nation,” Jhajharia told Sportstar from Rio.

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The one-armed javelin thrower from Churu, Rajasthan, managed a distance of 63.97 metres in his third attempt, bettering the 62.15m he set at Athens in 2004. He could not participate in the two editions in between since his event in the F46 category did not figure. In between, he won a gold (2013) and silver (2015) at the World Championships with record throws and a silver at the Incheon Asiad.

The F46 classification which Jhajharia participates denotes “field event for upper limb(s) deficiency, impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement”. Compatriot Rinku Hooda finished fifth with a personal best of 54.39m.

“My daughter (Jiya) phoned me to announce that she had topped in her kindergarten exams and said now it was my turn. That echoed in my ear when I entered the field. I had told my coach even before the event today that I would win gold. I was confident of my training, myself and my efforts,” Jhajharia said.

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An Arjuna Awardee and a Padma Shri (2012), a world champion and now the only Indian with two gold medals at the Paralympics with a world record – Jhajharia has seen it all. And even though the apathetic system continued to ignore him for a long time, Jhajharia refused to complain. “My job is to represent my country and I will keep doing it as long as I can. Karm kar phal ki ichha mat kar is my motto,” he said when asked about being ignored repeatedly for the Khel Ratna, the highest sporting honour in the country. The fact that the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) remained unrecognised due to mismanagement for a long time didn't help.

“If you stay positive and optimistic, it is not difficult to remain motivated. I have done it for more than a decade now. That is my only secret. That and the fact that I concentrate on only three things – eat well, sleep well and train well. We used to train for almost 7-8 hours every day both in India and in Finland,” he added.

Jhajharia along with other participants underwent training at the Olympic Training Centre in Kuortane, Finland in April as part of his preparations for Rio and admitted that the stint helped him a lot in working on his techniques. A Class IV employee with Railways for long – even after being conferred the Padma Shri – Jhajharia was finally offered employment with the Sports Authority of India after a second World Championships medal in 2015 and is now equivalent to an assistant director posted at Gandhinagar, Gujarat but practices in Jaipur.

Currently ranked third in the world, his first major international medal was at the Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled in Korea in 2002, where he won gold. “As a kid, I was taunted as a weakling. I succeeded only because of my determination to erase that adjective,” Jhajharia remembered. His arm was amputated after coming in contact with a live high-tension electrical wire in his village at the age of eight.

Up next is some quality time with his family, something he hasn't had for a while now. “My daughter misses me, my son doesn't recognise me. I wish to be more than just an absentee father to them now for some time,” he signed off.