India's para-athletes vow to give their best in Rio

India has sent a 19-member strong contingent, including six javelin throwers and three women para-athletes, to fight against the world's best for the top honours in the carnival city of Rio de Janeiro.

Devendra Jhajharia clinched a gold medal in the first Paralympic Games in Athens.   -  AFP

Devendra Jhajharia was eight years old when he accidently touched a live electric cable. A casual day of tree-climbing had gone terribly wrong and the doctors had to amputate his left arm.

Fast forward to 2004. Competing in javelin throw in his first ever Paralympics Games in Athens, Jhajharia came up with a world record throw to clinch the gold.

He had to wait for 12 years to get another shot in the quadrennial event. “Due to my category not being included, I was unable to participate in the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games,” Jhajharia, whose injury is classified under F-46, told Sportstar from Rio de Janeiro.

But his record is still in tact, so is his vigour to make India proud again. “I have been training extremely hard over the last decade and have waited for my chance to represent India at the Paralympics again,” the 34-year-old said.

He is not alone in the quest for gold for his country. In fact, the Padmashree and Arjuna awardee will face competition from two fellow Indians in his own category.

India has sent a 19-member strong contingent, including six javelin throwers and three women para-athletes, to fight against the world's best for the top honours in the carnival city of Rio de Janeiro.

If Jhaharia’s exploits inspired many para-athletes to follow his footsteps, another paralympian Amit Saroha has taken it upon himself to train and mentor other para-athletes while simultaneously charting his course to glory in the pinnacle of sports.

Saroha, who became a quadriplegic after a car accident, will compete in discus and club throw events in what will be his second successive Paralympic Games.

“London 2012 was an eye-opener in more ways than one, because it showed me the demands of sport at the highest level.

“In the years since, I have learnt that one can practice and perform to one's best various times, but ultimately, achievement is about what happens on the day of the event. With this in mind, I have sought access to a mental conditioning expert and had various sessions to help me focus and perform at the Paralympics,” Saroha, who is among the 11 Paralympic athletes funded by GoSports foundation, said.

The 30-year-old is confident of making a mark. “My preparation level for Rio has been excellent in the past year and I have done exceedingly well at international events. Physically, I am in the best shape possible coming at the back of breaking the Asian record twice, earlier this year,” he said.

Another big medal prospect for India is the 26-year-old high jumper Rampal Chahar. He has been in searing form, winning a gold medal in IPC Grand Prix 2016 in Tunisia to book his Rio berth. “In 2013, I stopped working to focus full time on pursuing high-jump professionally. I am very happy that my performances have taken me to World No. 8 in my event, and also that I qualified for the Games at the first international tournament that I participated in, earlier this year,” he said.

The national record holder, who was introduced to the world of para-sports by Saroha, has undergone 45 days of high performance training in Ukraine under one of the world’s leading high jump coaches, Nikitin Evgeny, and has a medal firmly in his sights.

Long distance runner Ankur Dhama, swimmer Suyash Jadhav and all the other athletes worked hard and are determined to win medals.

There may be no live broadcast of the Paralympics in India, but the para-athletes' performances will not go unnoticed. The sports ministry has promised cash rewards equal to the ones awarded to the able-bodied athletes, and that is an added incentive to keep India’s flag flying in Rio.

INDIANS AT RIO PARALYMPICS:-

Amit Saroha – Club throw/ Discus throw

Devendra Jhajaria – Javelin throw

Rampal Chahar – High Jump

Mariyappan Thangavelu – High jump

Sunder Singh – Javelin throw

Dharambir – Discus/Club Throw

Deepa Malik – Shotput

Karamjyoti Dalal – Discus Throw

Ankur Dhama – 1500m

Farman Basha- Powerlifting

Rinku - Javelin Throw

Narendra Ranbir – Javelin Throw

Suyash Jadhav – Swimming

Virender Dhankar – Shotput, Javelin Throw

Sandeep – Javelin Throw

Sharad Kumar – High Jump

Pooja – Archery

Naresh Kumar Sharma – Shooting

Varun Bhati – High Jump