By Chetan Sharma
After years of living in the unknown, para javelin thrower Sumit Antil is the talk of the town right now. People in his hometown Sonipat are eagerly waiting for their hero to return. Every single media house has queued up to take his interview. After all, the young javelin thrower has clinched the gold medal (F-64 event) at the Tokyo Paralympics.
The limelight is a stark contrast to his life a few years ago when the para-athlete was in 11th standard. The teenager was avoiding people and had shut himself in his home. He used to only come out late at night when everybody was asleep.
It was 2015, when tragedy struck the budding wrestler. Barely 17, Sumit lost his left leg below the knee following a motorbike accident.
"I had no clue at that time. People used to look at me differently," recalled Sumit while speaking to IANS exclusively.
"I had lost my leg and felt that life is finished now. I used to come out of the house late at night to avoid contact with people. It was so difficult; I went into depression. But then after some time, I realised the reality. And I had to accept it."
Following the realisation of the reality, Sumit got his chance to turn over a new leaf in life with the javelin, when he came to Delhi to pursue under-graduation; giving a tailwind to his high ambitions.
"I was introduced to para-athletics when I was pursuing my B.Com from Ramjas College of Delhi University. Even in college, nobody knew that I don't have one leg below the knee. I used to wear loose trousers. But later when my name came in the newspaper after I got selected for Asian Para Games, my friends in college got to know about it.
"Then I realised that now I have to prove what I can do. I remember I used to come by bus from Sonipat daily to college in Delhi and it was so painful. My other leg hurt a lot. I told this to my family and they arranged one good artificial limb which helped me. I spent from of my pocket to go to Finland for training in 2018 and it worked for me," said Sumit.
Success soon followed as he clinched India's second gold in the Paralympics by winning the men's javelin throw F64 event with a world record effort. Australia's Michal Burian won the silver medal, with the best attempt of 66.29m, while Sri Lanka's Dulan Kodithuwakku took home the bronze medal.
In fact, the Haryana boy bettered his previous world record of 62.88m, also set by him, three times on the day. His last throw was a foul. His series read 66.95, 68.08, 65.27, 66.71, 68.55 and a foul.
When asked if breaking records is his hobby now as in the 2019 Italy World Para Athletics Grand Prix he also shattered the world record in the F64 category and backed it up with another record throw at World Para Athletics Championships, Dubai, 2019, Sumit had a smile on his face.
"It feels great. In every tournament, I want to give my best. I want to set a benchmark in the para games. I wanted to hit the 70 mark but it didn't happen. It's ok, I am happy that I broke the world record thrice on my way to gold," he said. "During my qualification, till last month, I was injured but I worked really hard and it proved fruitful."