Throwing Javelin day after day, year after year despite knowing that the sport was not included in the previous two Paralympics.. Still trying to achieve accuracy and honing the skills. Sounds difficult right? Not everyone can do it. Well, then not everyone can be Devendra Jhajharia either. Such was the determination and will power of this 35 year old that he practiced and practiced hard for 12 consecutive years..And such was his dedication and focus that he hardly visited his home. So much so, his two year toddler (Son) does not recognize him.. All his hard work and painful days away from home finally paid off this year when he won his second Gold Medal at the Rio Paralympics. He won his first Gold Medal at the 2005 Athens Paralympics. Devendra bettered his own mark of 62.15m with a record throw of 63.97m in his third attempt in the men’s F46 javelin throw. This was also India’s second gold medal in this Paralympics.
One day that changed his life
As an eight year old, he made a mistake and touched a live electric cable. In order to save his life, Doctors were forced to amputate his left hand. In Devendra’s own words, his world came crashing down after that incident. His friends laughed at him and termed him weak. During this tough period, his mother was his strength and encouraged him to be focused in life and ignore what other said about him. Devendra was to create history and one day he was spotted by Dronacharya Awardee coach R.D. Singh in 1997 when he was competing at a school day. From that point, Jhajharia got a new lease of life and from there on began his second innings.
New Beginning for Devendra–
The Gold run began for Devendra when in 2002 he won Gold Medal in 8th FESPIC Games in South Korea. In 2004 Athens Paralympics he eclipsed his previous best record of 59.77m to throw 62.15,m to win Gold Medal and became only the second gold medalist Paralympics for India.( Murlikant Petkar was the first to win Gold Medal ) . Further athletic success came in 2013 at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France when he took the gold medal in the F46 javelin throw. He followed this with a silver medal at the 2014 Asian Para Games at Incheon in South Korea.
Awards and Recognitions –
His numerous good results were not unnoticed and he was conferred with prestigious Arjuna Award in 2005. The same year, Rajasthan government also felicitated him with Maharana Pratap Puraskar Award.
Apart from that, he also received the fourth-highest civilian honour Padma Shri in 2012 and became the first Paralympian to have received the award. In 2014, FICCI named him the Para-sportsperson of the year.
So as we were mourning our poor performance in the Rio Olympics, I hope we celebrate our Paralympics win with much fanfare and enthusiasm. The cash have also started to come in Jhajharia’s lap as the state government has announced a cash award of Rs 75 lakh, a residential plot and agricultural land for him. The prize money and accolades surely boasts our Paralympics athletes confidence by many folds but what we need even more is the change in our own attitude towards them and many other like them in day to day life.