JAIPUR: Since the day Devendra Jhajharia became the only Indian to have won three medals in consecutive outings at the Paralympics, he has been on his toes attending endless calls and functions. If at one end he is exhausted, on the other he is savouring the moments he had worked for intensively in the past so many years.
“I have not rested properly, but my medal is a source of energy for me. I look at it once and it re-energises me,” said the javelin thrower, who arrived in Jaipur to a rousing welcome on Saturday.
Jhajharia won the silver at Tokyo Paralympics in the javelin throw F46 event and completed the treble of medals. In the previous two Paralympics, he had won gold in Athens 2004 and Rio 2016.
Recalling the sequence of events in Tokyo, the 40-year-old athlete said that after the first two throws, 60.28 metres and 60.62 metres, his coach Sunil Tanwar pumped him up saying ‘medal chaahiye, itna tez throw kar phir bhaley haath nikal jaaye’ (We want a medal. Even if it comes at the expense of hurting your hand, throw the spear with maximum force and do it).
“My warm-up throw was 62 metres. But, when the event starts things change. After the first two throws a lot of things were going in my head, but I did not lose my confidence and did not get disturbed. And my coach told me to put in the maximum effort, even if your hand has to be sacrificed in the process let it be, but you have to win the medal. Josh aa gaya tha coach ki baat sunkey (coach’s words gave me a lot of energy and focus),” said the para athlete from Churu district.
Jhajharia’s best throw of 64.35 metres that earned him the silver, came in the third attempt.
Jhajharia believes that India’s sporting culture has changed, and now the focus should be on getting our name in the top 20 countries in the medal count at the flagship sporting event.
“Now we have the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) scheme in place, athletes can have an access to their choice of coach, physiotherapist, trainer, and can also go to foreign countries for training. Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacting with the athletes before, during and after the tournament is a big thing, and his involvement, I will say, shows the kind of sports culture we have built. The sporting landscape in our country has changed massively. Now in the coming years, the aim should be to ensure we are among the top 20 countries in the medal tally.”
The para javelin thrower feels that it is the state governments which also need to step up and create infrastructure that can support para athletes. “All the state governments need to make a lot of effort. First thing is working on the infrastructure where the training facilities cater to the needs of a para athlete. You won’t find any facilities for them anywhere and state governments are not investing in it. At most stadiums and sports centres there is no wheelchair accessibility, this shows what exactly is the situation,” he remarked.
Though his cabinet is glittering with all the possible medals an athlete wishes for, the veteran is in no mood to call it quits anytime soon. “Till the day I have enough strength in my hand, I will play. Age is just a number and the hat-trick of medals at the highest level is a testimony to that,” Jhajharia concluded.