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Friday, December 03, 2021

Praveen Kumar soars high to win silver at Tokyo Paralympics

From training in a local park in Delhi to winning a silver medal at the Tokyo Paralympic Games – it has been a dream journey for Praveen Kumar. The 18-year-old Delhi University student won the silver medal on Friday at the Tokyo Summer Games.

Competing in the men’s T-44 high jump event at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, Praveen won silver by clearing the bar at 2.07m. It was Praveen’s personal best and an Asian record in his respective category.

Praveen’s coach Satyapal Singh, a Dronacharya Awardee, was elated as his athlete won silver on debut at the world’s biggest stage.

“We are happy that all the hard work paid off. We are thankful to God that all went smoothly in this unprecedented time due to Covid-19. Praveen stayed focused on delivering the goods on the given day,” said the elated coach.

The last 15 months said the coach has been all about staying focused and managing bare minimum training facilities due to the pandemic.

“Since Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was closed due to Covid-19 crises in New Delhi, we couldn’t practice on the high jump mat for more than a year. We trained in a local park to maintain fitness. We got to practice on the high jump mat only in June,” said the coach.

Despite taking precautions, Praveen suffered a bout of Covid-19 in April. He was confined to four walls of the room for nearly 45 days. The coach said:

“Recovering the lost ground was a challenging task. It was the toughest phase of my coaching career,” reveals Satyapal.

Born with a disability, Praveen’s left leg was shorter than the right. He felt inferior as he had to limp and walk. Praveen’s father is a small-time farmer in Jewar, Uttar Pradesh, which is an hour’s drive from New Delhi. To pursue sports, Parveen shifted to New Delhi in February 2019.

“Some of my school friends teased me. That was the time I decided to do something different. I started playing volleyball and competing in school sports,” said Praveen.

Satyapal’s coaching was a big factor in Praveen’s success

Dissatisfied with being confined to local school sports, Praveen began to search for a specialized coach who could further fuel his passion for making big in the sports world. Praveen’s search ended in September 2018 when he came into contact with Satyapal. He had been involved in the Paralympic movement in India.

Satyapal’s vast experience in coaching para-athletes enabled Praveen to make an impact at the international level within a short span of time. Praveen won silver in the T44 high jump event at the 2019 World Junior Para Athletics Championships held in Switzerland.

The same year in November, Praveen qualified for the Tokyo Paralympic Games at the World Para Athletics Championships held in Dubai. The coach was impressed with Praveen’s natural jumping ability.

“Praveen height is 1.66m. But he could easily clear 2m in training. We knew he would do something different at the Tokyo Olympic Games,” added the coach.

On Friday, Praveen thought of his school days dream of making it big in the sports world when he stepped on the high jump arena at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“Praveen worked hard in the last three years. Disciplined lifestyle enabled him to soar high. Higher than what we thought at the Tokyo Olympic Games. We are happy with what he has achieved,” said the coach.

Also Read: “Golden girl strikes again”: India in awe of Avani Lekhara as she bags her second medal at the Paralympics


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