By B Shrikant
Mumbai, Aug 20 (IANS) No Indian has won a medal in successive Paralympic Games. In the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games starting on Tuesday (August 24), Rio 2016 high jump T-42 gold winner Mariyappan Thangavelu has the opportunity to set this record straight.
Though Devendra Jhajharia is the only Indian to win two gold medals in Paralympics, his medals came 12 years apart.
Mariyappan, who will be India’s flag-bearer during the Paralympic Games opening ceremony on August 24, is confident he will repeat his gold medal from Rio Olympics at Tokyo.
“My preparations have gone well and I am well settled in Tokyo. I have done some very good jumps during training and so I am confident that I will win the gold medal again,” Mariyappan told IANS in a virtual interaction on Friday.
Mariyappan is currently undergoing mandatory quarantine in Tokyo, which is till August 22 and is looking forward to having his first training session in Tokyo soon after the opening ceremony.
Mariyappan, who hails from Periavadagampatti, Salem district, Tamil Nadu, but was stationed at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre of Excellence in Bengaluru training under chief national coach R. Satyanarayana, said he is satisfied with his preparation for the event.
“I have had good training sessions in Bengaluru. The training was quite technical and though I did not go all out, I still managed to clear 1.98 m. So I am quite happy with the way my preparations have gone and I will surely win gold this time too,” said the 26-year-old, who cleared 1.89m in Rio and recently crossed 1.80 during the national selection trials.
Mariyappan has come up the hard way after he suffered a car accident and injured his right leg when he was five years old. His leg got crushed under a motor vehicle and developed stunted growth. Coming from a poor background after his father abandoned the family, Mariyappan had to take up two jobs to help his mother Saroja take care of the family.
Athletics helped him escape from that life and the gold medal in Rio earned him a lot of accolades including the Khel Ratna Award in 2020 and the Padma Shri in 2017. He is currently employed with the Sports Authority of India as a coach.
Mariyappan said his training for Tokyo was more intense than that for Rio. Coach Satyanarayana said Mariyappan is more experienced now than in 2016 and therefore is more confident of winning a gold medal. The 26-year-old high jumper had won a bronze in the World Para Athletics Championships in 2019.
“He has got a lot of support from SAI, from PCI, and the government, and therefore his strength is improved. He would definitely win a gold medal,” he said.
Coach Satyanarayana said he is expecting Indian athletes to bag at least 9-12 medals in Tokyo. “The boys have done well in recent years and therefore we have good chances of winning 9-12 medals,” he said.
Action from 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympic Games – Opening Ceremony will be telecast live on Eurosport and Eurosport HD from 4:15 pm IST onwards on Tuesday, August 24, 2021. The live feed from Eurosport will also be streamed on the discovery+ app.