When everybody is busy cheering for India’s new golden boy, Neeraj Chopra, there is a double gold medallist in the same discipline — far away from the limelight — fine-tuning his skills to clinch a third gold for himself and India. And unlike Chopra, Devendra Jhajaria has only one arm.Also Read - Tokyo Paralympics 2020: Devendra Jhajharia, Sundar Singh Gurjar Win Silver And Bronze in Javelin Throw F46
His is a name that not many may know, but Devendra was the one who made India proud by winning their first gold in the F-46 javelin throw even at the 2004 Athens Paralympics and followed it up with another at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. His efforts, including a world record throw of 62.15m, were recognised with a Padma Shri, making Devendra the first para-athlete to be accorded this national honour. Also Read - Tokyo Paralympics 2020 Opening Ceremony: Five Athletes, Six Officials From Indian Contingent to Attend
In a candid conversation with IANS, Devendra, 40 and supremely fit, said he was ready to represent India at the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics. The javelin thrower, who’s from Churu, Rajasthan, was working with the Railways and is now with the Sports Authority of India (SAI). Also Read - Tokyo Paralympic Games To Set a Record in Women Participation
“Some days ago, I was remembering 2004. My father was the only one who came to see me off for the Athens Games,” Devendra said. “Neither the state, nor the central government gave any money. My father is no more, but I still remember his words, ‘If you do well, the country and government will come and support you’.”
The para-athlete, who has been active in sport for over two decades, says his father was right, for other sports have come a long way in the country since he began.
“Today, when I see governments motivating athletes, I feel my father would be very happy wherever he is now,” Jhajharia said. “The Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS) is really good and Khelo India is benefiting young athletes as well.”
He added: “Sports has come a long way. Athletes are getting all the basic facilities. Back in 2004, I didn’t even know what a physio or fitness trainer was. Today, SAI has all the facilities at their centres. The government, moreover, is supporting athletes and para-athletes equally.”
Having said that, Devendra added that the country was still to achieve the desirable excellence in sports. He made a pitch for sports universities to be opened. These universities could lead India to those levels of excellence.
“We need to do research. Sports universities are required in India. We do not have a shortage of talent, but sports science is an area where a lot of work needs to be done,” he said.
The javelin thrower, whose left arm had to be amputated when he was eight years old, after he accidentally touched a live electric cable, is all prepared for his third Paralympics in a much-decorated career that’s spanned nearly two decades.
“I have the experience, so I am pretty confident,” Devendra said. “I will keep myself calm and focused. Last year, I was tested Covid-positive. As a result, my training got hampered. But I overcame it and worked really hard. Weight was also an issue for me. My coach had said that if I gain even one kg of weight, then I should forget about a medal. So, I started lifting the gas cylinder at home to control my weight. I reduced it by 7 kilos and I now weigh 79.”
With these inspiring words, the gritty Paralympian signed off — all set to pursue his dream of bringing home another gold.