Paralympics: Medals rain for India as Avani, Antil strike gold

Avani Lekhara and Sumit Antil earned gold medals for India, making Tokyo 2020 the most productive Paralympics for India
Avani Lekhara and Sumit Antil earned gold medals for India, making Tokyo 2020 the most productive Paralympics for India. Photo Courtesy: Twitter.

Medals continue to rain for India in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics on an event day that witnessed Sumit Antil smash three world records on his way to the  F64 javelin throw gold. Athletes with an amputated leg, competing in the standing position with prosthetics come under the F64 category.

Tokyo appears to have become a happy hunting ground for India javelin throwers. Neeraj Chopra earlier this month had landed India’s maiden track and field medal, that too a gold, in Olympics.

The 19-year-old Avani Lekhara won the gold medal in women’s 10m air rifle Standing event in the SH 1 category. Father Praveen was ecstatic.

In 2012, the whole Lekhara family met with an accident on their way to Dholpur from Jaipur. The then 11-year-old Avani suffered a spinal cord injury and was paralysed below the waist. Nine years later, now a teenager Avani became Paralympic champion with a record score of 249.6 in the final.

Now, the run continues in Paralympics. Antil, in his first Paralympics, smashed his own world record thrice. Veteran Devendra Jhajharia bagged the F46 category silver, cementing his status as India’s greatest para-athlete.

Another javelin thrower Sundar Singh Gurjar picked up bronze in Jhajharia’s event, while discus thrower Yogesh Kathuniya’s F56 silver ensured that India made its presence felt across the podium and through the day.

The 23-year-old Antil hogged limelight during the day. He hurled the javelin to an astonishing 68.55m on his fifth attempt, which was the best of the day by quite a distance and a new world record.

Sumit is still not content. “In training, I have thrown 71m and 72m, many times. I don’t know what happened in my competition. One thing is for sure in future I will throw much better,” said Sumit.

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The Sonepat boy, Sumit had lost his left leg below the knee in a motorbike accident in 2015. But he did not lose courage and continued with the javelin on a prosthetic limb. On Monday each bettered of his valid attempt – 66.95m, 68.08m, 65.27m, 66.71m and 68.55m – was better than the previous world record. He erred on one attempt.

Earlier, Jhajharia clinched the silver in the F46 category ahead of compatriot Sundar Singh Gurjar. The 40-year-old, who won gold in the 2004 and 2016 Games, pulled off a new personal best throw of 64.35m for silver. He had bettered his own world record (63.97m) but Sri Lankan Dinesh Priyan Herath Mudiyanselage set a new mark of 67.79m to take the honours.

“In sport and competition, these things happen. There are always ups and downs. I did my best and bettered my personal best. But it so happened that it was his (Sri Lankan’s) day,” said Jhajharia.

The 25-year-old Tomar, who lost his left hand in 2015 after a metal sheet fell on him at his friend’s house, was third with a best effort of 64.01m. He had won gold in 2017 and 2019 World Para Athletics Championships and a silver in the 2018 Jakarta Para Asian Games.

The F46 classification is for athletes with arm deficiency, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement in arms, with athletes competing in a standing position.

The 24-year-old Yogesh sent the disc to a best distance of 44.38m in his sixth and last attempt to clinch the silver in the F56 event.

In F56 classification, athletes have full arm and trunk muscle power. Pelvic stability is provided by some to full ability to press the knees together.

“Due to lockdown every stadium was closed. I couldn’t have a coach and I am still training without a coach. It was a great moment that I could win silver medal without a coach,” said Yogesh.

Another javelin thrower Sandeep Chaudhary (F64) finished fourth in the finals.

However, in a heartbreak for the contingent, discus thrower Vinod Kumar (F52) lost his bronze won on Sunday after he was found “ineligible” in reassessment of his disability classification.

In the most productive Paralympics, India so far has pocketed seven medals – two gold, four silver and a bronze. India earlier had bagged four Paralympic medals – at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro and 1984 Stoke Mandville-New York Games.

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