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  5. As India gears up for Paralympics 2024, PCI organises special event, body president in attendance

As India gears up for Paralympics 2024, PCI organises special event, body president in attendance

The Paralympic Committee of India organised "The Paralympic Story 7" on Thursday in Delhi. The PCI president Devendra Jhajharia also attended the event, which also saw some brave-hearted Indian para-athletes. The athletes shared their journey of valour and passion.

Written By: Varun Malik @varunm0212 New Delhi Updated on: June 14, 2024 13:11 IST
Devendra Jhajharia and Rakesh Kumar.
Image Source : X Devendra Jhajharia and Rakesh Kumar.

The Paralympics 2024 are not much far away from now. The quadrennial Games will take place after the Olympic Games in Paris, this year in August to September 2024. 

Ahead of the Games, the Paralympic Committee of India organised a special event called "The Paralympic Story 7" on Thursday, June 3, shedding light on the story of athletes and the efforts put in to bring the laurels to the country. It also thanked the SBI Foundation, which financially supports the para-athletes.

The Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) President Devendra Jhajharia also marked his presence alongside the other PCI officials and coaches. The President gave a welcome speech and highlighted the work these athletes are doing to inspire the people despite physical challenges. 

"The society used to think that the physically challenged (athletes) live such a hard life. But these athletes have brought a big change in this society, they have become role models. People think that if they (para-athletes) can do something why can't we? A normal person will not be able to do his work if you tie his/her hands but these athletes work 365 days to bring medals and bring laurels to the country," Jhajharia said at the event in Delhi. 

Asian Para Games 2023 medallists Rakesh Kumar and Pradeep Kumar also marked their presence alongside other International para athletes including Sarita Adhana (Paris Paralympics quota holder), Simran Sharma (Youngest women para shooter) and Kashish Lakra.

The Hangzhou Para Games Silver medallist and World No.1 compound men archer Rakesh revealed his journey from getting paralysed due to a car crash in 2009 to winning medals for the nation now. 

Rakesh Kumar - The Hangzhou Games Gold medallist opens on his journey

"My archery journey started in 2017. I got paralysed due to a car accident in 2009. I was not able to do much work. I come from Jammu & Kashmir, a place where para sports is not that popular. So, my journey started in 2017. I got to know about Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and met Kuldeep Kumar, who trained me," Rakesh recalls the start of his career.

He then stated that he has come a long way, from finishing in 10th place in his maiden Asian Para Games in 2018 and then winning a Silver in his next attempt.

Rakesh stated that winning a Gold medal is not the biggest satisfaction that he gets, but the greater joy is, seeing the national flag at the top of the podium with the anthem being played in the background. 

While he won Silver in individual and team events in Hangzhou 2023, Rakesh won a Gold in the Mixed event alongside Sheetal Devi, the armless archer. On being asked about his thoughts on defeating Chinese archers in that final on their own land in Hangzhou, Rakesh said, "Winning the medal is not the ultimate feeling for me. But the biggest joy is when the Indian tri-colour peaks at the top of the podium with the national anthem being played in the background. I cannot explain the feeling in words. That is the best one," Rakesh said.

Simran Sharma - A young para shooter who defied every obstacle that came her way

Another para athlete Simran Sharma was present there. Simran shared her story. "When I was nine months old, I suffered an accident. I suffered a spinal injury. But I never gave up," Simran said, whose spinal cord got 85% crushed at the time of injury.

"I took physiotherapies and was healing too. I decided I had to do something. I took part in all the activities in school. I did swimming but it was challenging. Then when I was nine years old, I was introduced to shooting for the first time," she said.

Simran picked up a rifle for the first time when she was nine years old during a school camp and hit an awesome score of 10.2 or 10.3. Simran's parents thought that this was the sport where they have to support them. But the family had to shift to Ambala for Simran's journey.

"I got to know about Deepak Saini sir in Ambala. We used to travel to Ambala but it was tough, so we shifted to Ambala. I trained there for a year. My mom used to take me to the shooting range. I came to Delhi for the Nationals the next year and I won a Bronze in the senior category. Then I won many more laurels in Nationals. Currently, I have 20 medals with me. I got selected for two World Cups and now I am preparing for the upcoming Paralympics," she said.

Sunil Kumar - A young athlete who lost his relatives but not his will

A young sprinter named Sunil Kumar Sahu suffered some unimaginable tough times too. He says that he lost his elder brother, his father and his sister. During this time, he suffered a hand injury during a blast in a receiver in an ice cream factory. Now he has several medals at the National level and is training to represent India at the highest level.

"It was all going well, we had an ice-cream stall but in 2012, my elder brother passed away. The next year, there was a blast in the receiver of an ice cream factory, during which my hands got injured," he recalls that time.

"The doctors said that my hands would have to be amputated. But my mom and dad said no, we would not let this happen even if we have to fix rods in his hands. I was admitted to an ICU ward in Apex Hospital, where I was treated. But when I came home, I could not do work. Seeing my condition, my father passed away due to a silent heart attack. The next year, my elder sister passed away. The whole situation at home deteriorated. My mother used to do sweeping and mopping work at homes to raise us," he says.

Sunil said he got to know about the Paralympics and then began a journey under Ajit Singh Rathore. "He used to train me for free. I trained in the Lalit coaching centre in Alwar. It was in 2018 that I first participated in District Games, where I won a Gold medal. It felt like I had the Gold on a National level. I got great encouragement from there. Then I got selected in State Games," he said.

But then came a time when he did not win medals for five years. But he says he never gave up. "I played the State Games in 2019 and finished fourth. But I was happy about that finish. I pinned my eyes on the 2020 State Games but I picked a leg injury before those Games. Then I targeted 2021. But those Games were postponed due to Covid-19. I was broken, but I kept working hard," he said.

Sunil says that the result of working hard is that now he has won five medals at Nationals four consecutive times and Eight at State level. He now targets to represent India in the Paralympics and wants to bring home a Gold medal to make the nation proud.

The stories reveal an unparalleled amount of determination, dedication and passion to do something despite facing all the odds stacked against them. Whether they win medals or not, they are doing enough to inspire everyone to face challenges in their lives

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