Khelo India Para Games: These athletes are showing us how to live, says Anju Bobby George 

Devendra Jhajharia, double gold medallist at Paralympics, reflects on how the movement has come a long way

Anju Bobby George and Viren Rasquinha during a medal ceremony of Khelo India Para Games on Wednesday (photo: SAI)
Anju Bobby George and Viren Rasquinha during a medal ceremony of Khelo India Para Games on Wednesday (photo: SAI)

NH Sports Bureau

The fourth day of the inaugural Khelo India Para Games saw an Asian mark fall in a throwing event but more significantly, it continued to cast a spell on the elite athletes of the country visiting the venues in Delhi. 

After Mary Kom, it was the turn of Anju Bobby George, India’s first medallist with a bronze at the 2003 World Athletics until Neeraj Chopra’s feat this year, former national hockey captain Viren Rasquinha and multiple Paralympics gold medallist Devendra Jhajharia turned up to hand over medals to some of the winners on Wednesday.  

Anju, now a vice-president with the Athletics Federation of India who also runs her own academy, told the Khelo India media team: ‘’These athletes are showing us how to live. Their adversity has not stopped them from achieving their goals as they are continuing to play sport. They have done exceptionally well across all international tournaments. 

‘’During our time, para was a separate entity and they would not get equal recognition but now they are receiving an equal platform as able-bodied athletes. The competition and support are at par and especially in these games, entire India is getting a chance and all the kids are so elated to get an opportunity to compete,’’ the long jump ace remarked.  

Rasquinha, now a TV pundit who runs his sports talent hunt initiative, summed it up: "When most people see para athletes, they see disability. But the more important thing is to see their immense ability. All of them are so talented — and the Khelo India Para Games inaugural edition is a wonderful initiative."  

Devendra Jhajharia, javelin thrower and the first Indian Paralympics athlete to win two gold medals at the Paralympics, meanwhile, felt that this tournament can start a new chapter in Indian sporting history. 

‘’The first para athletics championships were held in Bangalore in 2000, 23 years ago. At the time, we did not have many facilities. I met a member of the German delegation who told us that they had not seen a tournament of this scale. We are spreading our wings across the world.  

‘’Today, I can honestly say that the differently abled athletes of the country are determined to make a name for themselves. As a senior athlete, I can say that this is the face of a new, developing India,” he added. 

Asian Para Games mark

Meanwhile, Pranav Soorma of Haryana bettered his Asia Para Games mark to clinch gold in F51 category men’s club throw for the F51 category. The Haryana athlete threw a distance of 33.54 m at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, bettering his own gold medal effort of 30.01 m in Hangzhou. India’s Dharambir had so far held the Asian record of 31.09 m.  

Soorma’s journey into para sports is a remarkable testimony to his incredible determination and resilience. At the age of 16, he endured a life-altering accident that left him with a spinal cord injury and paralysis. In 2018, he made a courageous choice to pursue a career in sport. 

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