Young gun Praveen Kumar jumps to a new high

Praveen Kumar created an Asian record en route the silver Men's High Jump at the Tokyo Paralympics.
Praveen Kumar created an Asian record en route the silver Men's High Jump T64 event at the Tokyo Paralympics on Friday.

High Jumper Praveen Kumar secured silver in the Men’s High Jump T64 event at the Tokyo Paralympics on Friday with a Asian record of 2.07m. At 18, he also became the youngest para athlete to win a medal for the country.

There was more joy in store as Avani Lekhara became the fiirst Indian para athlete to win two medals in a single edition of a Paralympic Games. The 19-year-old shooter added the the gold with bronze in Women’s 50m 3 Positions SH1. There was a bronze too for Harvinder Singh in Men’s Archery Individual Recurve ST.

Praveen finished behind Jonathan Broom-Edwards of Great Britain, who secured gold with a 2.10m effort, which is also a season best for him. 2016 Rio champion Maciej Lepiato of Poland filled up the remaining spot on the podium, thanks to his best effort of 2.04m.

The T64 category is for those athletes who have a leg amputation, and compete using prosthetics in a standing position. Praveen has the disability classification – T44,  but is also eligible to compete in T64. His congenital impairment affects the bones connecting his hip to the leg. One of his legs is shorter than the other since birth.

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The T44 classification is for athletes who have a leg deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement in the legs.

Since he started playing the sport in 2019, this was also Praveen’s personal best
performance and his first major medal. “I can’t explain how I feel. This jump was ecstatic. This is my first Paralympic Games and I am waiting to see what lies ahead.”

He went beyond the 1.88m in his first attempt after his first attempt of 1.83m. Then having sat through the 1.93m mark, he made a successful 1.97m jump in his first attempt, which would have been enough to secure him a medal.

Praveen needed two attempts to go past the 2.01m mark. Then he made a successful 2.04m jump in his first attempt, unlike his maiden attempt for 2.07m, which was unsuccessful. However, he made amends in his second attempt to easily clear 2.07m and
set an Asian record.

“My confidence was boosted immensely after I jumped 2m. It was a little low before, but after I jumped over that 2m mark, it just skyrocketed. Now, I’ve done 2.07m, and that is a massive leap. I credit my coach (Dr Satyapal Singh) with this feat.”

Unfortunately, all his three attempts for the 2.10m mark were unsuccessful, something which Broom-Edwards cleared in his second attempt. Praveen became the fourth medal-winner for India in Men’s High Jump at the Tokyo Games. He has a World No. 3 rank in the T44 classification.

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In his first year of competition, Praveen secured silver at the Junior Para World Championship in 2019. Then, he won the World Para Athletics FAZZA Grand Prix 2021 in Dubai by setting an Asian Record.

He started participating in sport with school friends and had originally taken up volleyball. He happened to take part in an able-bodied High Jump event, and it was then that he came to know that differently-abled could compete as well.

An ecstatic Praveen spoke about his support system and parents, after his medal-winning campaign. “Right before the competition, I spoke to my parents and they said, ‘whatever you can do, go ahead and do that, don’t put too much pressure on yourself – we are happy with what you’ve already achieved’. They will be very, very happy,” said Praveen.


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