“Some people are meant to achieve the heights of success and some are meant to repeat that feat, only for the world to marvel at their achievements.”
16 years ago, two coaches mocked a boy for his disability, and now on September 14, 2016, the same ‘disable’ man created history by becoming India’s first two time Paralympic gold medalist. The 36 year old Devendra Jhajaria won India its second gold medal at the Rio Paralympic Games by throwing a javelin at a world – record distance of 63.97 meters. He broke his own records which he set in the 2004 Athens Paralympics in his event F46 javelin throw. When he was just 8 years old, he lost his arm while climbing a tree and accidentally got electrocuted in Churu district of Rajasthan. His left arm had to be amputated. Such kind of incidents can leave a lasting impact on anyone, and he was a mere child. His one arm was gone but his will didn’t. He never let down his natural flair for sports and hit the local playground as soon as he recovered from operation. But things were no longer the same. The man who is now the pride of the nation didn’t find any kid interested in playing with a handicapped child back then after that incident. Most people must have backed out on facing such a harrowing experience but Devendra was not one of them. It made him stronger and his reluctance made him play with able bodied sportsperson in his school. Eventually, his determination paid off when he was spotted by Dronacharya awardee coach RD Singh at a school event. He understood the level of ridicule Devendra had to face while continuing to take up sports which were more suited for able-bodies athletes. Once in 2000, a pair of coaches threw back a nasty line at him. Singh had got Devendra to Gwalior’s Laxmibai National University of Physical Education for an open inter-university meet when two coaches came face to face with them. Devendra was a teen then.
“Kyun RD Sir? Poore Rajasthan mein aapko do haathon wala athlete nahi mila? Kahan se langda-lula utha ke le aaye? (Could you not find an able-bodied athlete in all of Rajasthan that you picked a disabled boy?)” they had said. The words went down Singh’s spine and Devendra’s and he didn’t speak a word about it then.
Only four years later, Devender set the world record at the Athens 2004 Paralympics with a javelin throw of 62.15 metres, which was India’s second gold medal at the Paralympic Games, after Murlikant Petkar’s swimming gold in the 1972 Helsinki Games. After, his event F46 javelin throw was scrapped off in 2008 Beijing anf 2012 London Paralympics, these two men stay hopeful and kept practicing. 12 years later, this event got its entry in 2016 Rio Games and Devendra was in no mood to lose this golden chance. He rose up higher with breaking his own world record.
He hit the headlines for his winning berth and will remain for few weeks, but after that his name and story will confide to few texts on Internet. People won’t remember him for long as they do to able bodied medalists at Olympics. This happens in India. Things were like this then, when Devendra was secluded by local kids, mocked by coaches and countless other such incidents of insensitivity towards disabled, and sparsely anything has changed now. The mindset has to be changed. The disabled bodied needs to be recognized as differently abled. Who knows how many more such winning berths are to be witnessed in the future?
Some people are meant to achieve the heights of success and some are meant to repeat that feat, only for the world to marvel at their achievements. For Devendra though, things were far from ideal when he tread out on the path to greatness in his domain. He has defeated all able bodied Indians. His story is an inspiration to all to keep doing what your heart says, to keep determined, to rise even higher when others try to put you down, to never let your weaknesses deter you pursuing your dreams, to boldly face each and every hurdle in life and to stay strong and focused.