Even Rain Couldn't Deter Silver Medalist Paralympic Champ Mariyappan
After winning gold in 2016, Mariyappan Thangavelu created history by winning a silver in the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics.
Reporter & Producer: Smitha TK
Video Editors: Vivek Gupta and Sandeep Suman
It had been three months since Mariyappan had his Amma's biryani, aattukal soup (mutton leg soup), and nattu kozhi (country chicken). After the champion bagged the silver medal in the 2021 Paralympics in Tokyo, he called his Amma who was proudly distributing sweets to neighbours in Periavadagampatti village in Tamil Nadu. He then ordered idlies and lime rice and ate to his heart’s content.
Looking back at the victory, Thangavelu told The Quint that it was a difficult game as it was raining heavily at the time.
“I was very happy to win the silver medal. I slipped a little during takeoff. Though it was raining, the officials didn't stop the game and told us to keep going. I aimed to bag the gold medal and create a new record. But the rains affected my performance,” he said.
Mariyappan Thangavelu bagged a silver in the men’s high jump T42/T63 class after recording a jump of 1.86m at the Tokyo Paralympics.
“Not for a second did I fear falling. I have come this far and so I told myself that I was going to win no matter what.”Mariyappan Thangavelu
'Mariyappan Shines Bright Like the Sun'
His coach R Satyanarayanan explained that Thangavelu did not let the rains dampen his performance.
“We were prepared for such a situation. Three months ago, I made Mariyappan train in the rain. We were prepared to face any such shocks,” he said.
Thangavelu’s coach, R Satyanarayana said that had the weather been perfect, clearing 1.88m would not have been a problem for Mariyappan.
It was Satyanarayana who spotted Thangavelu’s talent at the 2013 National Para-Athletics Championship and took him up for training at the Sports Academy of India (SAI) center for differently-abled in Bengaluru.
“Thangavelu is not someone who should be kept closed because he deserves to shine bright like the sun,” the coach said.
A week before his victory, the high-jumper was replaced by javelin thrower Tek Chand as India's flag-bearer for the Paralympics opening ceremony.
Thangavelu was quarantined as he had come in close contact with a COVID positive person during his flight to Tokyo.
“I couldn't go out at all. I had training only in the evening. I had to stay at a distance from the coach. I trusted in God and so nothing happened to me,” he said.
He said that the only people he interacted with, during his entire stay, was his coach and bodyguard.
Born in 1995, Mariyappan Thangavelu represented India in the 2016 Summer Paralympic games held in Rio de Janeiro and won the gold medal. On 25 January 2017, he was conferred with the Padma Shri award and Arjuna Award for his contribution towards sports. He was awarded with Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna, the highest sporting honour in the country, in 2020.
Thangavelu was born in Tamil Nadu’s Salem and has four brothers and a sister. His mother Saroja, raised them on her own, working as a daily wage labourer and farmer to support the family.
Despite being India's first Paralympian gold medalist since 2004, Thangavelu told The Quint that his request for a Class 1 job has not been approved by the government till date.
“In all other states, athletes who participated in events along with me have all got government jobs.If I get a government job in Tamil Nadu then I will be able to work for the betterment of the state,” he told The Quint.
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