Devendra Jhajharia: The Forgotten Paralympic Gold Medallist
Devendra JhaJharia has won 2 Paralympic Golds for India and is the first para-athlete to receive the Padma Shri.
Devendra Jhajaria is the only Indian paralympic athlete with two gold medals to his name in athletics (men's javelin throw). He won his first gold in 2004 at the Athens Paralympics and his second in 2016 at the Rio Paralympics.
He holds the record for Javelin throw at 62.15m and is also the recipient of the Padma Shri, the first para-athlete to get the honour.
What makes all this more impressive is that Jhajaria has achieved all this with just one arm.
Jhajharia was born in a family of farmers in Rajasthan's Churu district, however at just 8 years old, his life would take a drastic turn.
When he was playing hide and seek with the neighbouring kids, he climbed a tree and accidentally ended up touching a live wire carrying 11,000 volts of current. He fell to the ground unconscious. While doctors were able to save his life, his left arm had to be amputated right away.
However, Jhajharia did not let this faze him. Like any true sportsman, his spirit remained strong and he decided to take up a sport that would "take only one arm". Despite facing ridicule and criticism, he didn't back down and took up javelin throw and even made his first javelin with bamboo.
“You can try and imagine how a parent would feel when someone says stuff like that about their own child. But my parents never let me feel the heat… I was striving to not make myself appear weak to the world. And the only way to achieve it was to succeed and be a champion. To be a champion, you had to be a sportsman. So, I started focusing more on the sport. In Class 10, I started practising every day and soon became the district champion in the open category. I kept on winning medals at inter-college, district, and state events,” Jhajharia said in an interview with The Hindu.
Jhajharia will be competing in the upcoming Paralympics in Tokyo and will be aiming for his third Paralympic gold. He says he is confident and will be able to take home another gold.
Devendra Jhajharia has faced many hardships in the past. But he has shown his tenacity, determination and unbroken spirit and has helped to bring a change in people's attitude towards Paralympics.
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