By Tridib Baparnash
New Delhi, Sep 14 (IANS) Devendra Jhajharia, who has emerged as the new poster boy of Indian athletics after bettering his own World record to claim his second Paralympics gold, feels it is his “willpower” which kept him going despite all the hardships.
“If you have the willpower then nothing is impossible in this world. I won my first Paralympics medal in 2004 and now after 12 years, it is just the dedication and hardwork which paid off,” Devendra, who is a coach with the Gandhinagar ccentre of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) told IANS on the phone from Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday after his victory.
“The feeling can’t be expressed in words..it’s like a dream come true. Even if I broke the world record in 2004, but this is something very very special. I felt like successfully completing a mission,” the World No.3 said.
He clinched the gold in the men’s javelin throw F46 event at the 2004 Athens Paralympics with a record throw of 62.15 metres, becoming only the second gold medallist for his country, and improved upon it with an attempt of 63.97 metres at the Olympic Stadium (Engenhao) in Rio on Tuesday.
Devendra, who last participated in the Paralympics 12 years ago as the F46 event did not feature in the 2008 and 2012 editions, admitted that maintaining the focus and bettering his own world record wasn’t an easy task.
“Maintaining the same focus at 23 and now at the age of 35 has been quite tough. But getting another gold after a 12-year long wait only sweetens the feeling more. I trained for four hours daily (two hours in the morning and anothe two in the evening) at the SAI centre,” he said.
“But when I moved to Finland for training, we worked for about seven hours everyday. This also forced the authorities there to admit how hardworking Indians can be. So I can proudly say that this gold is the outcome of all that hardwork and dedication”
Devendra, who was electrocuted while climbing a tree when he was eight years old and had his left hand amputated, credited his brilliant performance to the government’s Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme, without which he said such results would not have been possible.
“I want to credit this win to the government’s TOP scheme, which is an unprecedented step by the current dispensation. With this kind of support, I am sure the country will produce many more Devendra’s,” India’s flag-bearer in the Rio Paralympics opening ceremony, said.
“Corporate support is also an important factor for an athlete’s success. I am grateful to Go Sports Foundation, Indusind Bank and Sony for all their support for getting me equipment and enabling me train.”
The Rajasthan-born athlete was awarded the Arjuna award in 2004 and the Padma Shri in 2012.
Despite all the recognition, very few in India are aware of his feats, but Devendra feels the perception towards para athletes is gradually changing for the better.
“Perception towards para athletes has gradually changed over the time. The credit goes to the brilliant performances of the athletes, not only at the Paralympics but also other tournaments like World championships.”
Devendra said he will decide on his future after returning to India.
“I will return to India on September 21 and then will have a word with my coach to discuss my future. If he feels I am fit enough to continue as a player, then why not?”
Devendra took India’s tally at this edition of the Paralympics to four — two golds, one silver and a bronze.
(Tridib Baparnash can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)