Saturday (Indian time) brought double joy for India as paralympians Mariyappan Thangavelu and Varun Singh Bhati clinched the country’s first medals at the ongoing Rio Paralympics.
While Thangavelu took the gold in men’s high jump (T-42), Bhati won the bronze in the same event becoming the fourth Indian to win a Bronze at the Games.
The 20-year-old Thangavelu is the first Indian high-jumper to win a gold medal at the Games and is the third Indian to win a gold at Paralympics after Murlikant Petkar (Swimming, 1972 Heidelberg) and Devendra Jhajharia (Javelin Throw, 2004 Athens).
Thangavelu jumped 1.89 metres, 0.3 metres more that Bhati for the glory. The silver went to American Sam Grewe, who jumped 1.86 meters.
Mariyappan Thangavelu after clinching the Gold. AFP
T-42 is a disability sport classification for differently-abled track and field athletes with single ‘above the knee’ amputations or a disability that is comparable. Thangavelu is from Periavadagampatti, a village 50km from Salem, in Tamil Nadu. He has no use of his right leg below the knee ever since it was damaged in a bus accident when he was five. Yet Thangavelu finished second in his first competition with able-bodied athletes. He qualified for Rio by clearing a height of 1.78 meters at IPC Grand Prix in Tunisia.
On the other hand, 21-year-old Bhati, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, lost the use of one of his legs to polio. He is a gold medalist of the 2014 China Open Athletics Championship.
Varun Singh Bhati during the jump. AFP
Obviously proud of the achievement of the paralympians, Gursharan Singh, vice-president of the Paralympic Committee of India, told NDTV, “We know how we performed in the Olympics and now you will see how we perform in Paralympics. We all know the facilities given to Olympians and how many medals they got and we will see how our Paralympians perform.” India is level at 24th place with Argentina, Belarus, Ireland and Kenya. China is leading the tally with 20 Gold while the United States is in the fourth place with three. Thangavelu will be awarded Rs.75 lakh and Bhati, Rs.30 lakh as per an earlier announcement by the Sports Ministry for Rio Paralympians.
Watch Thangavelu’s Gold medal jump: