India made its Paralympic debut at the 1968 Games. Until the 1984 Games, India did not show participation except in the year 1972. Since 1984, India has participated in every Summer Paralympics and won medals as well. India won its first-ever Paralympic medal in the year 1972 at Heidelberg Paralympics, Germany.
Past Paralympic athletes have not been celebrated as much by the public. In this article, we will talk about some past medal holders of the Paralympics that made India Proud.
- Murlikant Petkar – Gold Medal (Heidelberg Paralympics, 1972)
Murlikant Petkar claimed India’s first-ever Paralympic Gold Medal in the 1972 Summer Paralympics in Heidelberg, Germany. He participated in 50 m freestyle swimming and won a gold medal. He also made the world record by covering a distance of 50 m in just 37.33 seconds.
He was a jawan or pirate of the craftsman rank in the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME) in the Indian Army. During the war against Pakistan in the year 1965, because of sustaining many bullet wounds, he became disabled. Initially, Petkar was a boxer at EME, Secunderabad, but after the injury, he switched to swimming. In the year 1998, he participated in the table tennis event of the Summer Paralympics and cleared the first round. In the later years, he got employed by TELCO Pune.
- Joginder Singh Bedi – 1 Silver and 2 Bronze Medals (New York (USA), Stoke Mandeville (UK) Paralympics, 1984 respectively)
Joginder Singh Bedi was a track and field Paralympic athlete from India. In the Summer Paralympics that was held in 1984, he won a total of three medals. Joginder Singh Bedi holds the record of having the most Paralympics medals in India. He won silver in Shot Put L6 and bronze in both Javelin throw- F46 and Discus Throw- L6. A little to nothing is known about this athlete’s personal life.
- Bhimrao Kesarkar – Silver Medal (New York (USA), Stoke Mandeville (UK) Paralympics, 1984)
Bhimrao Kesarkar is an Indian Paralympic athlete. He won the silver medal in the men’s Javelin throw- F46 at the Summer Paralympics of 1984 jointly held by New York and Stoke Mandeville. Both Bhimrao and Joginder claimed medals in the Javelin throw- F46 but Bhimrao was ahead of his companion and claimed Silver for India. Because of the hard work and dedication shown by both the athletes, in this particular year, India won a total of 4 medals and secured the 37th position out of 54 nations.
- Devendra Jhajharia – Gold Medal (Athens Paralympics, 2004 and Rio Paralympics, 2016)
Born on June 10, 1981, Devendra Jhajharia is an Indian Paralympic Javelin Thrower who competes in F46 events. Devendra is the first Indian to win two Gold Medals at the Paralympics. At Athens, Devendra won his first-ever gold medal in Javelin Throw and brought India’s second Gold Medal at the Paralympics. In this same event, he also set the record of 62.15 m. He won his second Gold Medal at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro and crossed the record he set in 2004 by throwing Javelin for 63.97 m.
Jhajharia belongs to the Churu District of Rajasthan. When he was just eight years old he touched an electric wire while climbing a tree. His left hand was amputated. He was spotted by Dronacharya Awardee coach RD Singh in 1997 while competing at the school’s sports day. R.D. Singh coached him from then on. Since 2015, he has been coached by Sunil Tanwar. In 2012, he became the first Paralympic to be honored by Padma Shri.
- Rajinder Singh Rahelu – Bronze Medal (Athens Paralympics, 2004)
Rajendra Singh Rahelu was born on 22nd July 1973 and is an Indian Paralympic Powerlifter. He won the Bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Paralympics in the category of 56 kg by lifting 157.5 kg. He represented India at the Beijing Paralympics held in the year 2008 and stood fifth in the final standings. He also represented India in the London Paralympics in the year 2012. He belongs to Meshampur village, Jalandhar District. Rahelu is the youngest of five siblings with two elder sisters and two elder brothers. His father Rattan Singh was a bandmaster and his mother Meera Singh used to work as a maid. He contracted polio when he was just eight months old, and thus, suffered from Infantile Paralysis.
Currently, he is working as Weightlifting (Para Powerlifting) Coach in the Sports Authority of India at NSWC Gandhinagar, Gujrat. He is married to Jaswinder Kaur and has two daughters.
- Girisha Nagarajegowda – Silver Medal (London Paralympics, 2012)
Girisha Nagarajegowda was born on 26th January 1988. He is a paralympic high jumper. The disability he has in the left leg is inborn. He represented India in the Summer Paralympics held at London in 2012 in the men’s high jump F-42 category and claimed the silver medal with a jump of 1.74 meters. He used the scissors technique for this. He is the first Indian to win a medal in this particular event. He is supported by the Sports Academy of Indian for Differently Abled and by Karnataka Sports Association for Physically Handicapped, both based in Bangalore.
He received the Rajyotsava Award in 2012 and the Best Sportsman State Award by the Government of Karnataka. He was awarded India’s fourth-highest civilian award from the Government of India, Padma Shri, in the year 2013 and he also received the Arjuna Award in the year 2014.
- Mariyappan Thangavelu – Gold Medal, Silver Medal (Rio Paralympics, 2016 and Tokyo Paralympics, 2020)
Born on 28th June 1995, Mariyappan is an Indian Paralympic high jumper. He represented Índia in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics and claimed his gold medal in the event of the high jump. He also represented India in the 2020 Summer Paralympics held in Tokyo, in the men’s high jump T-42 category, and won a silver medal. He received Padma Shri and Arjuna Award by the government of India in the year 2017. He was recently awarded the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award by the government of India.
He was born in Periavadagampatti village, Salem district, Tamil Nadu. His father abandoned the family and his mother Saroja raised six children as a single mother. At the age of five, he suffered permanent disability in his right leg after he was run over by a drunk bus driver, leaving him injured below the knee.
- Deepa Malik – Silver Medal (Rio Paralympics, 2016)
She was born on the 30th of September in the year 1970. Her career started at the age of thirty and she became the first-ever Indian woman to win a medal at the Paralympics. She won a silver medal at the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics in the shot put event. Currently, Deepa Malik is the world’s number one player in the F-53 category. She also won gold at the Grand Prix in the javelin event in the year 2018, which was held in Dubai. She is also associated with HMA (Himalayan Motorsports Association) and FMSCI (Federation of Motorsports Clubs in India).
She received the Arjuna Award in the year 2012 and Padma Shri in the year 2017. She has won 58 national and 23 international medals to date. She also created a New Asia Record in Asia Para Games 2018, as she is the only Indian woman to win medals in 3 consecutive Asian Para Games (2010, 2014, 2018).
- Varun Singh Bhatti – Bronze Medal (Rio Paralympics, 2016)
Varun was born on 13th February in the year 1995. He is a para high jumper from India. At a very young age, he was affected by poliomyelitis. He has won medals in many international events including bronze in Rio Summer Paralympics and 2017 World Para Athletics. Varun is supported by the GoSports Foundation through the para champions program.
He received the Arjuna Award on 29th August 2018 and was voted as the Para-athlete of the year 2017 at the Times of India Sport Awards.
Over the years, the craze about sports has been increasing. It’s the right time to appreciate athletes who made India Proud in the initial days. Over the years, we keep forgetting the struggles of these athletes but what we should be doing is remembering them and keeping them alive. We should learn from their achievements and the courage they showed in every battle of their life.
The only thing that can push us is hope and the only thing that can encourage us is the courage we show. We have to fight with ourselves first then the world, we have to grow with each passing day.