In Tokyo Paralympics, India created history as the athletes won 19 medals in total. Notably, India managed to win four medals in the previous Paralympics at Rio in 2016. A lot has changed in the past five years in terms of Para Sports as the government of India has paid significant attention to the training of the athletes.
Reports suggest that private entities still hesitate to invest in para-athletes. However, this time Indian government did a lot to ensure that the sportspersons get whatever support they needed for their participation in the competition. Times Now talked to four medal winners in the 2020 Paralympics. Sharad Kumar, who won a bronze medal in the High Jump T63 event at the Tokyo Games, revealed that even athletes from the USA complimented the efforts the Indian government has made to provide support to para-athletes. He said such recognition and effort that the government has made is much bigger than any medal for the athletes.
He said, “You look at Tokyo 2020, the Japanese government wanted to make the Paralympics a bigger event than Olympics. In India, no private equities had come forward to help us. That is when the government stepped in, helping us with expensive equipment and whatever our requirements were.” He added that Devendra Jhajharia went to Athens Games at his own cost. On the contrary, this time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi not only ensured that the government bears all the costs but also called the winners to congratulate them on their achievements. He said, “Even the USA athlete who won the gold medal in my event said ‘nothing can get bigger than this, not even a gold medal”.
Sharad appreciated the efforts of the Government of India as they are trying to bring the athletes in equally. The government is observing what athletes need in terms of facilities or equipment and approving them accordingly. The motivation from the government helps the athletes to look at things professionally, which is bringing the much-needed change in the para-sports.
Sumit Antil, who won gold in Jevelin Throw, said that it is difficult to explain in words how he feels. “Every athlete dreams of bringing a medal for his country, and that dream of mine has been fulfilled. I am proud of myself and thank the nation. I felt different energy as I went to the ground.” He added.
Yogesh Kathuniya, who won a Silver medal in Men’s Discus F56, said, “My experience was great. I expected myself to get gold but unfortunately couldn’t. I have learned a lot. Sumit was my room partner. He used to scare me with his antics in the room. I had told him to get gold as I couldn’t.”
Devendra Jhajharia, who won the Silver medal in Men’s Javelin F46, said that he dreamt of making a hattrick of medals that he fulfilled. “My back hurts because of the power I had put into my throw. Honoured to have won three medals for the country. My daughter was 5 when I had won a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games. She understands things now. Since I won a medal in Tokyo, she has been calling me to ask when I am coming back.”
The medal tally
In Tokyo Paralympics, India has won 19 medals which is the best ever performance in a single edition of the games. India has won five gold, eight silver and six bronze medals and stood at 24th position in the games. In the last games, India was able to send only 19 athletes who won four medals. But this time, India sent a 54-strong team of para-athletes who lived up to the expectations and won medals like never before.
Who won what at Tokyo Paralympics?
- Avani Lekhara won Gold in Women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1
- Pramod Bhagat won gold won Men’s singles SL3 badminton
- Krishna Nagar won Gold in Men’s singles SH6 badminton
- Sumit Antil won Gold in Men’s Javelin Throw F64
- Manish Narwal won Gold in Mixed 50m Pistol SH1
- Bhavinaben Patel won Silver in Women’s Singles Class 4 Table Tennis
- Singhraj won Silver in Mixed 50m Pistol SH1
- Yogesh Kathuniya won Silver in Men’s Discus F56
- Nishad Kumar won Silver in Men’s High Jump T47
- Mariyappan Thangavelu won Silver in Men’s High Jump T63
- Praveen Kumar won Silver in Men’s High Jump T64
- Devendra Jhajharia won Silver in Men’s Javelin F46
- Suhas Yathiraj won Silver in Men’s Singles Badminton SL4
- Avani Lekhara won Bronze – Women’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions SH1
- Harvinder Singh won Bronze in Men’s Individual Recurve Archery
- Sharad Kumar won Bronze in Men’s High Jump T63
- Sundar Singh Gurjar won Bronze in Men’s Javelin Throw F46
- Manoj Sarkar won Bronze in Men’s Singles Badminton SL3
- Singhraj won Bronze in Men’s 10m Air Pistol SH1
Some athletes won multiple medals, such as Avani Lekhara, won a gold medal and a bronze medal in shooting. Singhraj won a silver and bronze in the shooting. Avani will be the flag-bearer for India on Sunday’s closing ceremony for India. She is the first Indian woman to win a Gold medal in Paralympics history.
The importance of government initiatives in athletes’ training and development
Since PM Modi took charge, his government has brought several schemes and programs for the athletes to ensure adequate support for the sportspersons. One of such programs is TOPS, i.e. Target Olympic Podium Scheme. Specially designed schemes to give much deserved financial support and assistance to top athletes of the country to improve India’s position in Olympics.
TOPS aims at helping sportspersons secure Olympic medals for the country, a TOPS Elite Altheltes’ Identification Committee and a Mission Olympic Cell were set up. The body was tasked to identify top athletes and parathletes and provide them with several benefits.
The scheme includes training by reputed coaches at world-class facilities, purchase of equipment, supporting the services of physical trainers, sports psychologists, mental trainers and physiotherapists. At the same time, the athletes are provided with a monthly incentive of ₹50,000. It covers sporting activities such as table tennis, tennis, weightlifting, wrestling, hockey, archery, athletics, badminton, boxing, shooting and para-sports.
The scheme had witnessed much-needed success starting from 2016 when PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik won medals for India at the 2016 Rio Olympics. It continued with India won 2 gold medals, one silver and one bronze medal at the 2016 Paralympic games. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, 47 of 70 athletes supported by the TOPS programme won medals for the country. About 100 Indian athletes were covered under TOPS in 2016, and the number has increased since then. According to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) website, about 106 athletes/teams are part of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme as of February 2021. The success stories continued as athletes won seven medals in the Olympics and 19 in the Paralympics.