Devendra Jhajharia - From Winning With Bamboo Javelin to World Domination
Devendra Jhajaria is eyeing a historic third Gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics in F-46 Javelin.
While Neeraj Chopra is sweating out in the felicitation ceremonies since winning Gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, India’s other ace javelin thrower Devendra Jhajaria is working hard on the home stretch before the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
The Tokyo Paralympics slated to begin on 24 August.
Jhajaria, 40, will be aiming for his third gold. He was the one who made India proud by winning their first gold in the F-46 javelin throw event 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 (2017), making Jhajaria the first para-athlete to be accorded the national honour. Jhajharia became the first Paralympian to be conferred the Padma Shri in 2012. In 2004, he got the Arjuna Award.
Jhajaria, who unfortunately has only one arm, made his international debut in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan.
India's greatest Paralympian, Jhajharia, threw his javelin 65.71m during the national trials in New Delhi in July this year, bettering his own world record of 63.97m from the Rio Games in 2016. That throw saw Jhajharia qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics.
The aim is a third gold and more history, and of course the rich legacy!
The Accident and The Wait
Hailing from Churu in Rajasthan, Jhajaria’s childhood was tough as an accident meant doctors had to amputate his arm. He was 9 years old and had a live electric cable leading to the situation.
“I was climbing a tree in my village and accidentally touched a live cable, which was apparently an 11,000-volt cable. So severe was the accident that (my left hand) had to be amputated right away — nobody was sure whether I would be able to recover from it,” he had told The Hindu.
There may have been financial troubles at home, but a young and determined Jhajaria’s first tryst with training with a javelin saw him use a locally made one from bamboo. He never backed down, even in the face of ridicule and sympathetic criticism among friends and villagers. He was also backed with immense support from his parents.
Jhajaria, born to a family of farmers, was first spotted by Dronacharya Awardee Coach Ripudaman Singh while competing at a school sports day, and since then he hasn’t looked back.
He had begun participating in para-athletics in 1995 and the District Championship in 1995-96 was a turning point for him.
"I took my bamboo javelin to compete at the district level. When I became champion, the biggest gain was that no one could stop me from playing. No one would consider me to be a weak athlete. The joy I felt at that time was no lesser than what I felt after winning an Olympic medal. I find that moment to be a 100 percent change in the thought process for me. I was in the junior category. Athletes in 10th or lower play in junior category and 11th, 12th in the senior category. I think I threw 47.50 metres to win gold. I still remember that day," he had told Firstpost.
Currently supported by the GoSports Foundation, Jhajaria, who began his career in 2002, almost gave up the sport in the previous decade as the F-46 category event was not included at the Paralympic Games after Athens (2004), up until Rio – a gap of 12 years. In those years, he pocketed two world championship medals, a gold and silver in 2013 and 2015.
In 2013, Jhajaria hit reboot and decided against quitting and began training in Gandhinagar for the 2016 Rio Games, where he won his second gold.
Dropping or introduction of an event in a particular edition of Paralympics is solely on the discretion of International Paralympic Committee. Those events (or classifications) which attract less participation in the previous Paralympics or other top competitions are prone to be dropped.
Para-athletes are given a classification depending on the type and extent of their disability. The classification system allows athletes to compete against others with a similar level of ability.
F-46 classification is meant for athletes who have upper limb affected by limb deficiency, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement.
Can Devendra Jhajaria Complete Hat-trick?
Like many athletes, Jhajaria’s training too had been hampered as the build-up to Tokyo began due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was forced to sit at home for nearly six months due to a nationwide lockdown but is now back to the strict training schedule. He had also tested positive for COVID-19, which did not help his preparations in any way.
"Last year, I was tested COVID-positive. As a result, my training was hit. But I overcame that and worked really hard. Weight was also an issue for me. My coach had said that if I gain even 1 kg, 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."
Jhajaria, who began his career in 2002 with an 8th place finish in Busan, took gold in Athens and then waited 12 years till 2016 in Rio, where he smashed the world record with a throw of 63.97m. In fact the previous record was set by him as well in Athens. He’s also won gold (2013) and silver (2015) at the World Championships.
Jhajharia became the first Paralympian to be conferred the Padma Shri in 2012. The 40-year-old may not have age on his side but is confident that it won’t be a factor.
“I believe I am competing against myself. I know that I hold the world record and I am confident that I can break it again. Going by my training and my fitness levels, I am 100 per cent confident that I can break the world record again.”
"Now, for Tokyo, I have set myself the target to further extend the world record so that it stays in my name for many years.”
17 years after he was first crowned the Paralympic champion, Jhajaria will lead out the Indian contingent in Tokyo looking to further extend his legendary status.
Jhajharia has made history for India as the only person to win two individual gold medals in either the Olympics or Paralympics, and he now eyes a third and a spot among the pantheon of greats in the sporting world.
The Tokyo Paralympic Games is scheduled for 24 August and 5 September will be broadcast on Eurosport India.
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