The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics proved to be a watershed moment in Indian sport. In Tokyo, India’s para-athletes set a new record by winning 19 medals (five gold, eight silver, and six bronze). Before Tokyo 2020, India had won a total of 12 medals in the competition since its debut in 1960.
The Indian contingent’s outstanding performance helped the country finish in 24th place in the medal standings. Following a record-breaking Olympic campaign, the Paralympics could prove to be a pivotal event in the years ahead.
Let’s look at why the Tokyo Paralympics was such a significant event in Indian athletic history:
Putting Parasports in the Forefront
The Indian competitors’ accomplishments at the Tokyo Olympics fascinated the entire country. Despite receiving far less admiration, Indian para-athletes have drawn the interest of their nation.
It all began with Bhavina Patel’s incredible performance on her path to a silver medal in table tennis. SumitAntil, a javelin thrower, followed suit, breaking the world record five times on route to earning the gold medal. Then there was AvaniLekhara, who won two medals in the same edition. Pramod Bhagat, who celebrated his badminton gold medal by bouncing and hugging his instructor, deserves special mention.
These were some of India’s highlights from the Paralympics in Tokyo. The long-awaited adoration for para-athletes is finally arriving, something they haven’t always gotten in the past.
India’s Surge in Sports Tournaments is Expected to Continue
In Tokyo, India’s lengthy wait for an Olympic medal in athletics came to an end. Neeraj Chopra put an end to the wait with a gold medal in the men’s javelin throw. Following that, emerging Indian athletes won three medals at the World Athletics U20 Championships, tying for the best tally in the country’s history.
The process continues at the Paralympics in Tokyo. Athletics events accounted for eight of India’s 19 medals. SumitAntil, who won gold in the men’s javelin throw F64, was the best of the bunch. Nishad Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Yogesh Kathuniya, Devendra Jhajaria, and MariyappanThangavelu all won silver medals. Sharad Kumar and Sundar Singh Gurjar both won bronze medals for the Indian team.
The accomplishments of Indian competitors at the Tokyo Paralympics have further demonstrated that they are capable of competing with the best on the world stage. Indian sportsmen are now performing where it counts after years of underachievement and near misses.
Shifting the Society’s Perspective
Heading to the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, archer Harvinder Singh spoke openly about the challenges he faced on his way to the top. A differently-abled individual in India must contend with a social stigma. The same is true for para-athletes, especially if they come from tiny towns or villages.
Harvinder’s life was turned upside down as he won the Asian Para Games gold medal in 2018. People in his village began to follow Harvinder’s lead and tell their youngsters to do something different. A bronze medal at the Tokyo Paralympics will boost his profile and renown even more. The archer is just one example; other handicapped athletes in India go through a similar process before achieving success. After the Paralympics in Tokyo, this is likely to change in many parts of the country.
Every Paralympic athlete is a role model for others. They are unique in their own right, and they are entitled to the same level of support as able-bodied athletes.
Age is Just a Number
At the elite level of sports, an athlete’s age becomes crucial since they must compete against the greatest athletes from all age categories. The Indian athletes, on the other hand, proved at the Tokyo Paralympics that age is irrelevant if you have the passion and will to succeed. Praveen Kumar, 18, earned a silver medal in the men’s high jump T64 event in his first appearance. He became the youngest Indian to ever win a Paralympic medal in the process. AvaniLekhara, another youngster, became the first Indian woman to win numerous Paralympic gold.
Devendra Jhajaria, on the other hand, showing his passion for achievement at the age of 40. This time, the great javelin thrower took home a silver medal. Singhraj, 39, also demonstrated his mettle by winning two medals at the Tokyo Paralympics. In the mixed 50m pistol SH1 and 10m air pistol SH1 categories, the shooter received silver and bronze medals, respectively. As a result, the Paralympics in Tokyo educate us that no matter how old or young we are, we should never give up on our aspirations.
There are Plenty of Role Models for the Next Generation
Several members of the Indian contingent were previously ignorant of the existence of para-sports. As a result, many of them were introduced to their sports at a young age. After the Tokyo Paralympics, however, the situation changes dramatically.
When the para-athletes arrive in India, they will be greeted with a warm welcome. Several differently abled children will be encouraged to participate in sports at this time. Gone are the days when India would leave the Paralympic Games empty-handed. This generation of sportsmen has set a high bar for themselves.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that the Tokyo Paralympics will occupy a place in the history of Indian sports and inspires generations of athletes to engage in this sport. Deepa Malik, President of the Indian Paralympic Committee, is confident that he will double the medals in Paris in 2024 after Indian athletes performed brilliantly at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
After seeing the para-athletes do so well in Tokyo, a new generation will be watching and waiting for their chance to impress. In Paris 2024, India has a good chance of surpassing this incredible achievement and continuing its drive to become a worldwide athletic superpower.