Devendra Jhajharia is one of the greatest Indian Paralympians but in Tokyo, he will have a chance to etch his name in the history book as the GOAT in men’s para-javelin throw.
He is the only Paralympic athlete from the country to win two gold medals in athletics. He won his first title at the 2004 Athen Paralympics. His second came in 2016 at the Rio Paralympics.
Devendra Jhajharia is the current world record holder for the event. He threw the spear to 65.71m in July at the qualification competition. Besides this, he is also the first para-athlete to receive the Padma Shri award.
What makes it even more inspiring is that Devendra Jhajharia has done it all with just one arm. But he was not born with a disability. Instead, it happened after a freak incident.
Devendra Jhajharia – Freak accident and journey to glory
Born in Churu district of Rajasthan, Devendra Jhajharia was eight when his life took a drastic turn. While playing hide and seek with the neighboring kids, he climbed a tree and accidentally touched a live electric wire. He fell to the ground unconscious. While doctors managed to save his life, they had to amputate his left-arm right away.
However, Jhajharia was unfazed by it. In fact, he believes the accident made him even more determined to do something big. He credits his mother for backing him and helping him overcome all the challenges.
“My mother was always there by my side. She just wanted me to go out and play and compete with the normal kids. She always motivated me and that is when I became motivated to do something big and inspiring,” the Quint quoted Devendra Jhajharia as saying.
Despite facing ridicule and criticism, a determined Jhajharia made his first javelin with bamboo.
“I wanted to be a champion, so I started focusing on sports. In class 10, I started practicing more and soon became the district champion in the open category. I won medals at inter-college, and state events too,” Jhajharia told the Hindu.
In 1997, he was spotted by Dronacharya Awardee coach RD Singh at a school event. He has since been training under Singh.
Devendra Jhajharia became the second Paralympic gold medalist for India since Murlikant Petkar who won it in 1972. When Devendra won the gold medal in 2004, he broke the world record with a stunning 62.15m throw.
At the 2016 Paralympics, he bettered that record, throwing his javelin at a distance of 63.97m to win a historic second gold medal.
In addition to his two Olympic medals, he also won a silver medal at the 2014 Asian Para Games. His first competitive medal came at the 2002 FESPIC Games in South Korea, where he bagged gold. Devendra also won gold and silver medals at the IPC Athletics World Championships in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
He will be competing in the upcoming Tokyo Paralympic and will be aiming for his third Paralympic gold. The javelin thrower says he is confident of bringing home the Paralympic title.