Sundar Singh Gurjar, an Indian para-javelin thrower who brought home a bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, revealed that the Rajasthan Forest Department, where he has worked since November 2020, approved his salary due for ten months only after he won the Paralympic medal.
Sundar has been working as an officer in the Rajasthan government’s forest department alongside fellow para athletes Avani Lekhara and Devendra Jhajharia.
Speaking to PTI, the Paralympic medallist lamented, “I have been working in the forest department in Rajasthan since 5th November 2020. But the day I won the Paralympics medal, within two hours I got my first salary of 10 months”.
How Sundar Singh Gurjar battled suicidal thoughts
Sundar reminisced on the highs and lows of his life, recalling a time, during his career, when he was suicidal.
Sundar competed in able-bodied contests till 2015 and was a part of a junior national camp that included Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Neeraj Chopra and others until his life changed forever. One day, a tin shed fell on him at his friend’s house leading to the amputation of his left hand.
Sundar didn’t give up hope, and with his coach’s unwavering support, he returned to the field in the para-athlete category. He qualified for the 2016 Rio Paralympics in less than a year before fate struck again and wrecked his dreams. A delay of 52 seconds in reaching the call room led to his disqualification from Rio Games, the Paralympic medallist recalled.
“I fought back and qualified for the 2016 Paralympics only to be disqualified. That time I started thinking everything is finished, there is nothing left for me. I thought of committing suicide but that time my coach (Mahavir Saini) realised something wrong is going on in my mind. For a month he kept me along with him 24×7, didn’t leave me alone”, Sundar told PTI
“As time passed, my thoughts started to change. I started thinking I will start playing again and answer back to the world,” he added.
Sundar Sigh Gurjar credits his coach for single-handedly transforming his life and career
Attributing his life and career transformation solely to his mentor Mahavir Saini. The F46 javelin throw bronze-medallist from Tokyo said: “I used to play sports since 2009. Initially, I used to do shot put and I had a medal in shot put in nationals. I did shot put for one-and-half years and after that, my coach Mahavir Saini told me if you have to shine in your career you have to leave shot put and start javelin.”
“He might have seen some talent in me and he started training me. From there till now, coach saab has supported me a lot,” said Sundar, feeling beholden to his coach Mahavir Saini.
Tokyo Olympic Gold medallist Neeraj Chopra and Sundar Singh Gurjar played together until he met with an accident
Recalling his time training at the camp with Neeraj Chopra, who scripted history by winning India’s only gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, Sundar said: “He was two years junior to me. I used to play Under-20 and he used to be in Under-18. We played a few competitions together at the youth level”.
“In junior India camp me and Neeraj were together in SAI Sonepat camp in 2013-14. Then I suffered an accident in 2015 and came under para,” he added.
Sundar is convinced that their success will undoubtedly encourage future generations to participate in the sport.
The Paralympic champion thrives to win a gold for the country
Adamant about pushing himself further, Sundar said during the interview that he was not satisfied because his target was to win the gold. “I feel I still have some drawbacks. I won a medal in the Paralympics but I am not satisfied because my target was to win the gold and I hope to do that in the 2024 Paris Paralympics.
“My first focus would be on Para Asian Games and the World Championships next year but the final target is Paris,” Sundar added.