Headlining the largest Indian contingent at any Paralympic Games is one-armed javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia, who will be aiming to add to his impressive list of achievements in Rio de Janeiro when the event gets underway on September 7. India’s top para-athlete, the 35-year-old from Rajasthan’s Churu district is expected to win more laurels for the country.
Jhajharia’s achievements include winning gold medals at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games, 2002 FESPIC Games in South Korea and 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships, apart from silver at the same event in 2015 and one at the 2014 Asian Games. In fact, his gold at the World Championships in 2013 was the first ever for India.
He remains one of only two Indians to win a Paralympic gold and holds the world record in the javelin throw.
Jhajharia’s success – made tougher against the backdrop of financial disabilities – is testament to his willpower and physical prowess. In an interview with The Hindu this year, he recalled the day that his life changed. “I must have been eight or nine years old when I got an electric shock. 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 let alone my left hand — it had to be amputated right away — nobody was sure whether I would be able to recover from it,” remembered Jhajharia.
On his career graph since winning gold at Athens 2004, he said: “I feel I have been a consistent performer for well over a decade. Even after breaking the world record in 2004, I created the championship record while winning the gold medal at the World Championship in 2013. After that in 2014 at the Incheon Asian Games, I won silver. And not too long ago, I won silver medal in at the World Championship. Another big change I have noticed is that sports has got more and more importance in India. Every Indian wants to watch, if not play, sport. Fifteen years ago, it was a different world, but now everyone wants Indian sports to improve and a lot of people and institutions like GoSports are striving to achieve it.”
A former Indian Railways staffer now employed by the Sports Authority of India, Jhajharia is coached by Dronacharya awardee RD Singh. He received the Padma Shri in 2012.